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Beautiful Thing (1996)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Jamie Gangel skips school and returns home to his flat on the Thamesmead estate in South London. On the walkway outside his home, his teenage neighbour Leah sings Mamas and Papas songs until his mother returns. Sandra and Jamie argue as she attempts to discover why he is unhappy at school. Later that day Jamie meets Ste, another teenage neighbour, who is part of the gang that bullies him.

Ste goes into his flat to prepare supper for his alcoholic father and brother when Leah locks herself in her bedroom and starts playing Mamas and Papas at full volume, forcing him to enter her flat and stop the noise. When Ste returns, the supper is ruined and his father forces him to eat all of the burnt food. Later that evening Ste's brother beats him up.

Sandra returns home from her job, managing a local pub. She meets Ste who is crying after being beaten up by his brother. She invites him to stay the night, sleeping top to tail with Jamie. Ste stays over again the following night, and he and Jamie share their first intimate experience.

Several days later Ste and Jamie are at a party with Leah. Angry that Leah has spread rumours about her miscarriage, Sandra confronts Leah. As Ste and Jamie are leaving, Leah accuses them of being gay.

During the next few days, Ste avoids Jamie. When Sandra questions Jamie, he tells her that Ste is in love. When Sandra sees Ste again she gives him five pounds to buy a present for his girlfriend. The next evening Ste arrives at Jamie's with a present, a new hat, and they plan a trip to the Gloucester, a gay pub.

After a telephone conversation with Jamie's teacher, Sandra discovers a copy of Gay Times under Jamie's bed and graffiti over his schoolbooks. When the two boys go on a trip to the Gloucester Sandra follows them. When Jamie returns, Sandra confronts him, and is sympathetic when he admits he his gay.

Shortly after, Sandra splits up with her bohemian boyfriend and decides to accept an offer to manage a new pub. After being persuaded to accompany the boys to the Gloucester, she catches a glimpse of them dancing cheek to cheek outside the flats. To the surprise of the neighbours who have assembled around the boys, Leah and Sandra start dancing together. Leah tells Sandra that she's decided that she is looking for a butch lesbian who just happens to look like Sandra.