Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is one of those films that, even after the first watch, you already know is going to become an instant queer classic.
Based on the award-winning English musical of the same name, which in turn was based on the 2011 television documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, Amazon Prime Video’s newest movie musical tells the endearing story of Jamie New, a Sheffield teenager who, unlike most of his high school peers, dreams of a life on the stage as a drag queen. But unlike other queer coming-of-age movies, Jamie isn’t trauma stacked with self-hate with even more trauma piled on top. In fact, the titular hero is already an out and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, is quite confident and sure in his sexuality and gender expression, and has a loving, supporting network of family, friends, and mentors who care for him and offer their love and guidance.
“It’s nice to be in a film where he does have that support system at home and from his friends and his mom and stuff,” say newcomer Max Harwood, who plays Jamie in his first feature film role. “The more films there are with queer people in [them] that aren’t traumatic, that’s an accurate representation of my life as a queer person. So it would just be nice to see more of [that].”
Sure, Jamie endures his fair share of hardships. His estranged father wants nothing to do with him because of his queerness. At school, some of his classmates — and one nosy overreaching careers teacher — basically scoff at the idea of someone wanting to make a life for themselves as a high-heeled, wig-wearing, lipstick-smacking queen. But while Jamie does endure some ups and downs, the film does a good job of not dwelling on the struggles life throws at queer teens in a typical blue-collar suburban town. The film underscores that, with the right people in your life by your side, you can accomplish your wildest and most fabulous dreams — and Jamie is fortunate to have that type of deep support system.
Though his best friend, Pritti (Lauren Patel), has some reservations at first when Jamie reveals his drag ambitions to her, she goes through her own journey of understanding and acceptance. To witness their dynamic on screen adds a refreshing dose of realism, especially since so many young queer men at that age find their first allyships with their female friends at school.
“The lovely thing about Pritti and Jamie is that they’re just absolute polar opposites, and she does not understand and makes it very clear that she has no idea why her friend wants to put on a wig and a dress and dress up,” says Patel.
“I feel like some people, when they are confronted with something that they don’t know, they run in the opposite direction. I feel like it’s important to see that it’s OK to go, ‘I don’t get it, but I love you, and I can see that this makes you happy. So please tell me more and let me try and understand.’ And I feel like it’s lovely to see her do that with Jamie,” Patel continues.
“It’s a coming-of-age story of a young gay boy, but actually, he doesn’t have to burden himself with the whole of it,” says Jamie director Jonathan Butterell, speaking about creating a musical film experience that is joyous and celebratory, especially when so much mainstream media tends to dwell on heavier, more dramatic and intense storylines. “He just is allowed to be himself and not be representative of a whole community as well. The normalization of that makes us, as a queer community, feel that actually, we deserve our place in the world. This is our place. We’re naturally here. We don’t have to force our place into the world, we’re here.”
“I think the message of the film is that the shift needs to come from the communities around them, around us, to make us safe and welcome. And hopefully, that’s what this film does.”