BLUE JEAN – Review by Justina Walford

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Dramas set in the 80s walk a tightrope, often forcing us into a sense of nostalgia, romanticizing the decade even though it was far from inclusive. LGBTQ coming-out films also walk a tightrope, usually stuck in a world of early LGBTQ challenges without showing a character existing beyond the struggle of identity. Blue Jean is both of these genres. Yet, the combination defies the challenges and comes off beautifully as a sincere dialogue and, in some ways, a sincere amends and admiration among generations.

Jean (Rosy McEwen) is a beloved gym teacher in England who finds herself torn between her love for Viv (Kerrie Hayes) and the fear of jeopardizing her career by coming out. Jean’s struggle with her double life takes a toll on her relationship and work life until it all comes to a boiling point after she sees a student at the gay club she frequents.

Even though the premise may seem well-worn ground, writer-director Georgia Oakley is not working in stereotypes and simplistic character arcs. She has crafted a narrative that is historically relevant and tragically resonant today. The story is interwoven with television and radio updates highlighting the conservative government’s efforts, led by Margaret Thatcher, to enact discriminatory legislation against the LGBT community.

The film opens with Jean discussing the fight-or-flight response and instinctual reactions. Initially enigmatic, this scene gains significance as Oakley layers situations upon each other, forcing Jean to rely on survival instincts and make irreversible mistakes along the way. As whispers circulate about Jean, the film taps into the pain of being targeted, by the government, peers, and family.

Blue Jean” is shot with a palpable tenderness that transports viewers to our own teenage years, not the teen years of 80s wild hair and bright colors, but the iconic and fiery world of dark music, rebellious fashion, and secret places for anyone who fell outside the norm.

Each interaction between characters carries unspoken dialogues that delve into the generational divide, where 15-year-old Lois represents a more self-accepting perspective compared to Jean, who is nearly twice her age. Reflecting on the present day, Lois would be around 50 years old, while Jean and the proudly open Viv would be in their 70s. Additionally, the enigmatic and manipulative Siobhan, with her volatile emotions and intriguing control over her sensuality, would also be 50 in 2023. Who would these very different women be now? What would they share after the last 35 years of LGBTQ milestones and personal growth?

The film excels in its writing and direction, and the performances elevate this film into a complex and stunning tapestry of storytelling. McEwen’s portrayal of Jean elicits genuine empathy as viewers earnestly root for her to overcome a situation that seems destined to break her. Hayes shines as Viv, defying the traps of a love interest and embodying the spirit of a woman deeply in love but constrained by a relationship half-trapped in the closet.

Set against the backdrop of 1988, a challenging period for the LGBTQ community regardless of age, Blue Jean portrays a cast of characters who are neither wholly good nor bad but rather complex and flawed, each representing a spectrum of strength and vulnerability. By the final act, the emotional suspense builds as we invest hope in Jean’s redemption. While grounded in historical realities, the film does not guarantee a happy ending, but as we witness Jean’s journey, filled with mistakes and losses, a glimmer of hope emerges. It may not be a fairy-tale ending but a realistic sense of hope for those of us on our own paths of self-discovery.


An award-winning writer of screen and stage, Justina Walford was also the Founder and Festival Director of Women Texas Film Festival for the life of the fest and she was programming director of Oxford Film Festival for two years. A lover of adrenaline-filled movies since she could understand the word “zombie,” she is particularly drawn to strong women’s voices in alternative genres such as horror, action, and science fiction.

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