Though the ensemble recognized by SAG includes only four people (Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, and Jamie Draven), the performing power of these gifted actors more than fills the screen with emotional fervor. The individual relationships and collective interactions illustrate the very human bonds shared by what could be construed as a family. The relationship between Bell and Walters transcends mother and son, even goes beyond teacher and pupil. There is a real sense of equality, of give and take. They are both nourished by the exchange.
Seasoned actor Lewis imparts a gravity to Billy's father, a disillusioned widower hard pressed to provide for his family during a work stoppage. His urgency to protect Billy from his silly notion of being a dancer is understandable, given the times. Lewis' character is at a loss to communicate with his son, and every bit of his frustration and weakness appears while Bell's Billy withdraws, tired of trying to make his father understand.
Draven, as the passionate union-supporting brother, sees everything in black and white, and is often too seething to attempt to understand his little brother's point of view. Draven's scenes with Bell and Lewis capture a family unit held together by a tenuous thread, their only saving grace being a bit of understanding that finally comes in the form of Walters' taskmaster ballet teacher pushing Billy to express his true passion.
Walters and Lewis are two forces seemingly working against each other, and expertly portrayed as such. Draven's "me-against-the-world" electricity is repeated in Billy, though in different outlets. Under the expert direction of Stephen Daldry, this ensemble strains against itself, but somehow finds its way back to mutual understanding.