Film Review: Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021)

This cinematic adaptation of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is fabulously enjoyable, led by a fine performance by Max Harwood

“Sometimes, you gotta grab life by the balls, and you take those balls and you tuck ‘em between your legs”

The movie musical seems to be having a bit of a moment again. We’ve been treated to In The Heights and Cinderella, tick, tick…BOOM!, Dear Evan Hansen and a new West Side Story are soon on their way and who could forget Diana: A New Musical… Joining that illustrious company is Sheffield’s own Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, making the leap from the Crucible to the West End to the big* screen. (*It’s available on Amazon Prime so screen size may vary ;-))

And as it has maintained a large proportion of its original key creative team, it carries over so much of its proudly fabulous heart and soul. Based on the true story of Jamie Campbell, we follow Jamie’s last few months at high school as he dreams of becoming a drag queen. And in true Britflick fashion, there are heartwarming ups and heartbreaking downs, plus an expanded range of toe-tapping tunes from Dan Gillespie- Sells. What is fascinating as someone who has seen the stage show a fair few times now, is how well Tom MacRae’s adaptation of his own book works.

Perhaps setting its stall out from the start, the film begins with a newly-penned song as we join Jamie on his morning paper round. But it’s almost not necessary as once we hit the first musical number ‘Don’t Even Know It’, director Jonathan Butterell (making his cinematic debut) expands the world of the song, transcending its initial classroom setting to hit the club and then the catwalk. And even as he indulges the frequent tips into Jamie’s fantasy world, there’s a keen sense of location at play too, as grey Yorkshire skies and the less glamourous side of Sheffield are a distinct element to the storytelling too. 

Fleshing out the emotional world of key songs is something this film does well throughout. ‘Wall in My Head’ flashbacks to Jamie’s childhood and his troubled relationship with his father. And new song ‘This Was Me’, sung by no less than Holly Johnson, powerfully embodies  LGBT+ history of the 80s and 90s as it introduces Richard E Grant’s Hugo, the drag veteran who comes to act as mentor to Jamie. On a cheerier note, the visual effects in ‘Work of Art’ are an absolute treat, Sharon Horgan revelling in a lighter moment as the stern Miss Hodge.

Newcomer Max Harwood makes a hugely accomplished debut as Jamie, offering a more nuanced, softer take than you might have seen onstage. He can get away with being less as he doesn’t have to sell it to the balcony but making him more overtly naïve works in terms of portraying the complex emotions he has to deal with in terms of both his parents. Sarah Lancashire shines as his mum Margaret, taking her strong vocals out for an airing after the long-lost Betty Blue Eyes. Lauren Patel also impresses as best pal Pritti, an inspired if still all-too-rare example, in popular culture, of a Muslim character whose religion is incidental.

Kate Prince’s choreography pings off the screen delightfully (I loved the dinnerladies!), Christopher Ross’ cinematography is always interesting as it navigates through fantasy and reality, and sprinkling of cameos throughout is a constant delight. Original stage Jamie John McCrea is perfect as the young Loco, original real Jamie and his mum pop up as well, and there’s even a bit of Bianca del Rio as well. I couldn’t even pretend to guess how Everybody’s Talking About Jamie will fare with the non-theatrical crowd but for us, the cool kids, I’m damned glad we have something as good as this.

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