“Are your children being taught traditional moral values? Let’s get out of education politics. The slogan, displayed on a building in Georgia Oakley’s Blue Jean, serves to frame the debate that raged in England towards the end of Margaret Thatcher’s reign.
The film is set in 1988, as evidenced by the soundtrack, which includes a New Order hit. His statement, however, echoes the fight currently being waged by the American right against what it considers harmful to children and the traditional family and which is embodied, among other things, by the adoption in 2022 in Florida of a law prohibiting the information about sexual orientation and gender identity to children, from kindergarten to third grade.
The tagline also encapsulates why Jean (Rosy McEwen) lives under constant stress: a high school physical education teacher, she is forced to hide her homosexuality for fear of losing her job. A risk that becomes more and more plausible when a conflict involving one of his students threatens to reveal his secret.
There’s nothing spectacular about the film written and directed by Georgia Oakley, which is her feature debut. No one here is playing heroes. Especially not Jean, stuck between his lover and his workplace, between his deep identity and the fear of seeing his life destroyed by the prevailing homophobia and the cruelty that results from it. This restraint is one of the great qualities of this film carried by the nuanced, contained and moving performance of Rosy McEwen.
Blue Jean has won a number of awards on the festival circuit, especially from the public. With good reason: it’s a fair, controlled and touching film which, without pressing anything, holds up a disturbing mirror to our time. A reminder that some gains are never guaranteed.