Ballet Shoes (2007)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Many of you may recognize this title from the reference Meg Ryan’s character makes to Noel Streatfield in You’ve Got Mail. I know that has been my only introduction to her works. When first reading about this adaptation, I’m not sure the light bulb went off, but either way, I do not regret having stumbled onto this little jewel.

An explorer who has no place or reasons to allow a small girl into his home, “Great Uncle” Matthew (Richard Griffiths) or "Gum" finds himself quite at a loss when he becomes the sole living relative to an eleven-year-old child brought to his home by her nana (Victoria Woods). The two find they have much in common and Sylvia forms quite an attachment to Gum, only to have him gallivant across foreign countries leaving her in the care of her capable nana. Upon his return trip he brings home an orphaned baby, who is called Pauline. At a loss with what to do with a child, Sylvia (Emilia Fox) and Nana take on the job of bringing her up while Gum returns to his adventures. At his next two stops he also brings home something of a souvenir both times in the form of two small girls named Petrova and Posey. Since the girls either have no family or are unwanted by a parent, they are given the surname of “Fossil” and raised in a loving but increasingly poor livelihood by their guardian, Sylvia.

Youngest Posey (Lucy Boyton) was sent with a pair of ballet slippers from her mother who is a talented dancer, having choosen her career over her daughter. This makes young Posey determined to follow in those footsteps. Petrova (Yasmin Paige) refuses to become a lady, although she is smart, her head is often in the clouds, one day wishing to fly those “roadways in the sky.” Imaginative to a fault, Pauline (Emma Watson) is unsure of her ambitions but is quick to find them. Out of money and with Gum gone some twelve years, Sylvia is frightened at what to do with a family, that while not blood are stitched together by something stronger: love.

Opening their home to boarders, they encounter a variety of characters. From the energetic dance instructor Theo Dane (Lucy Cohu) to the quiet, grieving Mr. Simpson (Marc Warren) the house comes alive again. Theo sees in the girls’ potential to work in theater, something Sylvia bristles at but allows Theo to pursue, and what follows is each girl writing their own shining star. 

Charming is the best way to describe this little known novel-to-screen adaption. Unable to compare it to its original form, all I can attest to its story as an adaptation. And what a fabulous job the BBC did in giving the story life. It's a bit confusing in establishing all the characters, only because two of them have a nickname other than their given name, something we aren’t aware off, so we occasionally find ourselves curious as to who everyone is referring to. Too minor a complaint to spoil the story, there is something wonderfully innocent about Ballet Shoes.

Ballet Shoes

Knowing little of this apart from the expectation I have of most any BBC costume drama, this 1930’s drama has since become one of my absolute favorites. Ballet Shoes is a story about many things, but at its heart, it's a coming-of-age tale; I loved its concentration on these girls’ lives and how each come into their own. The girls do become rather conceited and selfish, which is sad for a while and yet this doesn't dampen how fond of them we remain throughout. Arriving with this comes a great deal of sobbing, yelling insults and moments of heartbreaking emotions. All of which is somehow ironed out as it should be. 

With such star-studded name recognition, BBC certainly had nothing but the best in this little period piece. Everyone from Emilia Fox to Eileen Atkins appear. Perhaps no one is more impressive than the three fresh faces that portray the Fossil sisters. Emma is naturally known for her role in Harry Potter these seven or so years, likely even by those of us leery of the film series, but Lucy and Yasmin are fairly new to the scene. Each girl was marvelous in her role, and seemed quite at ease with her respective character. Lucy in particular was lots of fun, because I’d also seen her in the 2008 miniseries Sense and Sensibility starring as the precocious Margaret Dashwood. Really, I couldn’t criticize one performer – everyone seemed well suited to his or her role. (Costume fans enjoy picking out all those familiar faces and voices from the feature film Sense and Sensibility to BBC’s David Copperfield.)

If looking for something “safe” to watch on one of those girls-night-in, this is a lovely choice, to say nothing of the fact that it's worth adding to your shelf of favorites. There is heart behind it and although there is a kind of bittersweet ending, I was pleased that filmmakers didn’t choose to end on that note, showing us one last happy time instead which brings us to the closing credits.

CONTENT: Posey often teases the two elder about their growing out of their dresses “around the bust.” Some of the costumes/dresses may be a bit immodest; other girls attending school are quite competitive. Social drinking is seen in one or two scenes. A pair of female boarders, Dr.'s Jakes and Smith, room together suggesting a lesbian relationship – one appears more masculine (deep voice, eyeglass), the other is more grandmotherly-like with a sweet disposition. The film would earn a PG rating in my estimation.



  1. I ADORE this film, so happy you enjoyed it!

  2. Sans the lesbians, it is a sweet little movie. I enjoyed seeing Emma in something else, although she'll probably always be Hermione!

  3. I've been wanting to watch this movie.
    I think you can watch it on youtube.

  4. I watched this...last year I think? And it was really cute :)The two {female}teachers didn't "ruin my experience" any, because I just didn't think of it that way ;) And I agree, this is such a sweet, girly movie! :)

  5. I loved the book, so I'm rather curious to see if the movie is faithful to the original story. From your summary, it sounds like it is (except for a few minor points). I do have one question though, is there any offensive language? You didn't mention any, so I'm hoping there isn't. Thank you for the recommendation!
    Oh--and Noel Streatfeild is actually a woman. :)

  6. Ruth - me, too! It has been ages since last I watched this one, so it really deserves a re-watch. =)

    Charity - I know that homosexuality is what BBC was getting at, but it was so mild in its implication that it really shouldn't prevent an audience from checking this one out. As you say, it is just sweet, and I enjoyed Emma's performance in this one - it was very emotional.

    Ella - in all likelihood, this one is on YouTube. You might also check your library (if you use it) or Netfilx. Enjoy if you see it - it's so charming. =)

    Trinka - I know, right!? It is one of my favorites.

    I agree with you that the female teachers subplot didn't ruin anything for me. It would have been better if writers had left any such implication alone, but still... way too cute to let it bother us. =)

    Miss Dashwood - oooh! You've not seen this one yet!? It is such a special little movie. I've not read the novel (as usual) but am glad to know that it does it justice - or you feel like it would. Enjoy if/when you see it!

    Language... I don't recall that there is any profanity/offensive language. There is probably a British slang word or two but nothing terrible.

    Thanks for that correction, too! I changed it right away. ;D

  7. I had wondered if this was a good movie, having seen it in the library a couple times. Maybe next time I see it I'll get it :) Thanks for reviewing! Sierra
    Keep Growing Beautiful♥ (Cause You Are!)

  8. This is such a cute movie. My ten-year-old cousin (a budding ballerina) and I love to watch it together. The book and it's companions-- Dancing Shoes and Theatre Shoes-- are adorable.

    BTW, I love your blog so much I tagged you:

  9. Sierra - it is SO cute! You should rent it next time you are in the mood for something new on film. =)

    AnnaKate - agreed! Awww... I always liked dance but never took any lessons - your cousin, no doubt, enjoys that. (I think dance is a beautiful "sport.") Glad to know that the books are just as good - perhaps I should read them sometime.

    Thank you! I appreciate readers feedback, whether it be positive or negative - of course, I am most happy when it is in the positive. ;D Thanks for including me in your tag!!


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