Blue Jean, the Searing Lesbian Drama Exploring Queer Life Beneath Thatcher
The star of Blue Jean discusses the intricacies of crafting a personality who tries to make herself invisible, the erasure of Part 28 from British historical past, and the significance of centring radical queer pleasure
In Georgia Oakley’s hypnotic debut Blue Jean, the eponymous Jean – a lesbian PE trainer working in a northern English highschool – is constantly bathed in a piercing, oceanic glow. Blue mild filters in by means of her gymnasium home windows as she runs netball drills, blue tiles glint by means of her home, blue ripples distort her face as she lies in her bathtub. Jean, well mannered and contained and quietly terrified, resides a hushed double life through the nascent days of Part 28, the 1988 British legislation that prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” in faculties. Beneath its watchful gaze – the clipped tones of Margaret Thatcher echoing on the radio, the careless disgust of household and colleagues felt in passing – she is slowly drowning.
Blue Jean is the newest in an extended and proud British cinematic custom that seeks to unpick the violent legacies of the Thatcher years, each revealing the capability of coverage to devastate quotidian life, and of on a regular basis acts to remodel into resistance. We spoke with Rosy McEwen, who performs Jean in her first main function, concerning the intricacies of crafting a personality who tries to make herself invisible, the erasure of Part 28 from British historical past, and the significance of centring radical queer pleasure.
Anahit Behrooz: I used to be struck watching Blue Jean by Jean’s chameleonic nature. Once we first see her she’s dying her hair – it’s like she’s continually shape-shifting. How did you’re employed to seize such an elusive character?
Rosy McEwen: One of many issues Georgia [Oakley] and I first talked about is how Jean places on a masks for each social scenario. She feels the stress to carry out and – to not take this away from the lesbian expertise – however I really feel that is one thing all of us really feel, significantly as ladies. That we now have to be a sure sort of individual: aesthetically good or clever or humorous. We had been fortunate to first begin taking pictures at Jean’s home and for Jean, that is the place she feels most secure. That is the one place the place her masks are off and she will actually let go. We may begin from the start the place she’s most authentically herself.
Anahit Behrooz: She’s such a reserved character. How did it really feel to be taking part in somebody who’s so caught in their very own interiority?
Rosy McEwen: It was actually onerous to maintain all of it in. Whereas we had been filming, bizarrely, there have been nights once I’d get up and simply begin crying. I would held it in a lot, and I felt like Jean would not permit herself to launch. And that’s far more tiring than having an enormous outdated cry, as a result of getting every part out is cathartic. I hadn’t actually anticipated that – it was extra exhausting than I believed it was going to be.
Regardless that this was based mostly on one thing actual, actual ladies who had been dwelling this life, you continue to must make the character your individual. That is the ultimate piece of the puzzle whenever you’re creating a personality: you’re employed out what they like for breakfast and the way in which they transfer and discuss after which the ultimate piece is a little bit little bit of your self that aligns with who they’re. It is the pairing of your self and all the remainder.
Anahit Behrooz: What was the little bit of your self that you just put in Jean?
Rosy McEwen: What I spoke about earlier than, I believe: that stress society places on ladies to be a lot that there is not sufficient freedom to be our genuine selves. That frustrates me lots, and it holds me again. Jean taught me a lot about having braveness, and never feeling like you must match into the tiny house that is been given to you.
Anahit Behrooz: I cherished how this movie builds out its queer world, virtually like a technique of queer archiving. Was attending to grips with the granular components of that historical past additionally vital?
Rosy McEwen: Oh, yeah, completely. There’s the messaging that she was studying and seeing on a day-to-day foundation, whether or not it’s Margaret Thatcher’s voice on the radio speaking about normative relationships and even Blind Date, and the way a lot stress is placed on femininity as what defines a lady. I [wanted] to encompass myself with precisely what Jean would have been seeing and listening to each single day. Though it was heartbreaking and irritating, it was actually useful to have it seep into my psyche.
Anahit Behrooz: It appears to me that British cinema retains returning to this era. Is there one thing concerning the Thatcherite period that makes it such fertile floor?
Rosy McEwen: Effectively, I really assume I’ve to disagree. As a result of sure, Margaret Thatcher’s [term] was an enormous time of change for Britain, however really, I did not even know Part 28 had existed earlier than I learn the script, and I used to be in school when it was abolished in 2003. It feels just like the story has by no means been instructed. The explanation I believe persons are responding to [Blue Jean] is as a result of everybody’s like, ‘How did I not find out about this?’ And I really feel like lesbians specifically fall into shadow. If you concentrate on the illustration of lesbians on display, it’s normally very aesthetic and oversexualised. To see lesbians, butch lesbians, stunning lesbians, simply being a pair feels so refreshing and obligatory.
Anahit Behrooz: Why do you assume we now have forgotten?
Rosy McEwen: I don’t know. It seems like a shameful secret. And it being abolished in 2003 … There was nothing actually about it being abolished, there wasn’t an enormous launch. It simply type of slid underneath the carpet like, “Oh, we already did this actually unhealthy factor, let’s simply eliminate it and never inform anybody.” I believe persons are ashamed.
Anahit Behrooz: On the similar time, Blue Jean additionally presents a extremely stunning depiction of queer neighborhood. Why was it so vital to centre this type of queer pleasure?
Rosy McEwen: It is so pretty to have [Jean’s girlfriend] Viv and her pals as a part of the story relatively than simply Jean struggling. It makes it a personality examine, each of Jean and in addition Viv. I bear in mind Georgia instructed me that when she met Sarah, considered one of our [consultant] lecturers who was working on the time, that that they had numerous conversations about what this time was like. After which on the finish of their chat, Sarah mentioned: “Please simply make us cool, as a result of we had been cool. We had been actually well-dressed. And we had been badass.”
Blue Jean is out on February 10, 2023.