In a scene at the 15 minute mark in Billy Elliot where Debbie and Billy are saying goodbye, Debbie vanishes behind a passing vehicle.

I've seen this technique applied in movies where the whole atmosphere is supposed to be surreal or we're supposed to question a character's psyche, but I don't get that sense from this otherwise quite grim and realistic movie.

Any ideas?

Edit: I'm not sure it's related, but for what it's worth -- later in the movie we see a tired Billy imagine his recently deceased mother in the kitchen, then when he and the camera look back she's similarly vanished. That instance is a bit more logical/traditional.

enter image description here

  • It's been so long since I've seen it. What is Debbie & Billy's status after this scene? (Does she vanish from his life, either for a time or permanently?)
    – DukeZhou
    Apr 24, 2019 at 0:03
  • 1
    This is pretty early on in the movie and nothing much changes after this -- she's in the ballet class he joins and then eventually have a bit of a flirtation. She doesn't vanish and their relationship doesn't really change until later. Apr 24, 2019 at 1:39
  • Okay, what? This GIF is 30 MB! Is there any way to replace this with a select few static images or a YouTube link?
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jun 27, 2019 at 18:31
  • [GIF size] Huh, that's surprising. On the other hand, I think substituting it completely might damage the question. Maybe a lower quality\smaller version of this GIF?
    – Walt
    Jun 27, 2019 at 18:40

1 Answer 1


Debbie doesn't really vanish - that is, this doesn't seem to be a special effect or an editing trick, and there is a realistic explanation to it in the film itself. Though they're hard to spot (especially with captions on), you can just make out Debbie's feet moving under the police van. Debbie simply decided to run alongside it as it passed her; we just can't see her from this particular POV:

enter image description here

Of course, this choice of perspective and action still seems deliberate. And while we can delve into Debbie's role in the film, a simpler explanation would be that it's a continuation of a theme displayed earlier in this scene. Remember the first half of this short scene contains one of the more memorable images in the film: Debbie drags her stick across the wall and then across a row of police shields that the wall seamlessly blends into, without even acknowledging them:

enter image description here

So I think it's just fitting to bookend the scene with a police van then 'swallowing' her whole. Police presence (due to the ongoing miners strike) has become such an inseparable part of these children's lives that it's literally part of the scenery - and threatens to engulf them at any given moment.

  • Thanks for your answer! I'm still hoping to get an authoritative source from a script or director's commentary or otherwise, but this is a good theory Jul 2, 2019 at 16:56

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