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THIS IS ENGLAND (dir: Shane Meadows)

Posted: May 10th, 2007, by Alex McChesney

After leaving the cinema, still with that punched-in-the-stomach feeling that Meadows’ films tend to invoke, we flagged down a cab to take us home.

“Man, what a fare,” the driver said in an exasperated voice as soon as we moved off, clearly hoping that we’d ask what was up. Stupidly, we did so, triggering a lengthy story about the “black gentleman” who had gotten into the cab before us, and had given directions in some kind of incomprehensible “jive talk”. This segued into an extended diatribe on the english-language capabilities of what felt like every nation under the sun.

I so, so hoped that, story exhausted. he would eventually fall-back on the standard “what were you up to tonight?” conversation-starter, whereupon we could straight-facedly reply “we went to see a film about racists,” but sadly he never did.

Not that it’s that simple. This Is England‘s skinheads aren’t two dimentional thugs, nor cyphers in the service of some leaden moral point, but skillfully-drawn to the extent that you’ll find yourself empathising, if not sympathising, with even ringleader and de-facto baddie Combo (Stephen Graham). It’s really newcomer Tomas Thurgoose’s show, whose turn as Shaun, a schoolboy living in a crappy run-down suburb, recently deprived of a father during the Falkland’s war, who falls in with a bunch of harmless local skins. The initial third of the film moves from kitchen-sink “grim-up-north” drama to gentle comedy as he finds a sense of belonging and a surrogate family with his new gang, who want nothing much more out of life than to have a bit of a laugh and listen to ska records. It isn’t until their former mate Combo gets out of jail with a head freshly filled with far-right sympathies that events take the expected dark turn. Both Meadows and Thurgoose make the transition seamlessly, with the latter proving himself to be a young actor with an exceptional range.

This Is England is by turns witty, sad, violent and profane, and certainly not for the faint-hearted. It’s also the best film I’ve seen so far this year.

IMDB page for This Is England
Shane Meadows’ Wikipedia entry

Alex McChesney

Alex was brought up by a family of stupid looking monkeys after being lost in the deep jungles of Paisley. Teaching him all their secret conga skills (as well as how to throw barrels at plumbers), Alex was able to leave for the bright lights of Glasgow where adventure struck him and he needed all his conga skills to save the world and earn the hand of a lovely Texan princess. He now keeps a low profile alphabeticising his record collection and making sock monkeys in the likenesses of his long lost family.


1 Response to THIS IS ENGLAND (dir: Shane Meadows)

  1. Ollie Simpson

    Saw this last night. Gotta say I wasn’t as into it as everyone else seems to be. I felt like the main core of the film was the sense of dread that something really horrible was about to happen, and when something kind of horrible did happen and then it was over, I was just left thinking “eh?”

    Right from the off it seemed to be trying very hard to be a Quadrophenia for the 80s (something that was confirmed as I spotted a homage to the famous line-up poster as I left the cinema), but that coupled with all the deeply personal stuff seemed to leave a film that was a bit all over the place, with various underdeveloped characters (Shaun in particular).

    I’ve enjoyed A Room for Romeo Brass and Dead Man’s Shoes, but This is England seemed to be lacking something central that would have elevated it to the level of Meadows’ previous stuff.

    All that said, it did have moments of real greatness, and I certainly didn’t hate it. Was just a bit… confused.