This is England

This is England

Director: Shane Meadows

Writer: Shane Meadows

Genre: Drama

Cast: Thomas Turgoose ......... Shaun
Stephen Graham .......... Combo
Jo Hartley .................... Cynthia Fields
Andrew Shim ................ Milky
Vicky McClure .............. Lol
Joseph Gilgun ............... Woody

Review: I want you (Well, those old enough to.) to remember the days of Olivia Newton-John and legwarmers, of big sholder pads and even bigger hair, of Pac-Man and Rubik's cubes, 'Raybans' and mullets, riots and unemployment, Princess Diana and Madonna. It's the 80's! And it's been captured superbly in this semi-autobiographical picture of director Shane Meadow's childhood, portrayed whilst Margret Thatcher is in control and the Falklands War is in full swing. Filled with very strongly left-wing views on the political situation in the year 1983, this film really packs a punch for those wishing to catch a glimpse into the vibrant past of the 80's.

The story follows Shaun (played by Thomas Turgoose) , a young 12 year old boy, living in your average costal town with his mother after his father was killed in the Falklands War. It starts at the end of term for Shaun before the summer break, a day when your average child would be cheering, but instead is one more day to be teased. His odd disposition coupled with his very uncool flared trousers makes him subject to a lot of bullying from the other kids at school.

When returning home in a flustered and distressed mood from being picked on by some Mods, Shaun runs into a few Skinheads hanging around in an underpass. Here is shown the very strong sense of tribalism embedded into the 80's. After quite a few laughs at him, one of the Skinheads, Woody, sympathises with him and invites him to sit and have a chat. Feeling sorry for young Shaun, Woody (Joseph Gilgun) tries his very best to liven him up and sure enough, goes home a slighlty happier boy. He soon befriends them and together are shown commiting petty vandalism, listening to ska and reggae records, and giving Shaun a true Shinhead makeover.

The livelier side of Skinheads is shown here with a cocky Woody as head of the gang and his group of sidekicks all of whom are silly teens who are in for a bit of fun. However, the darker side of this often misconstrued culture takes over when Combo (Stephen Graham) enters after a three and a half year stint in prison. Though we know nothing about him from before, we can tell he is a recently changed man.

Shortly after his appearance, a rift begins to grow throughout the group after Combo unlashed some unecessary racist remarks, which unerves Milky, the resident Jamaican in the group. His lectures on unemployment under 'Maggie's' reign and the redundant British soldiers fighting the Argentines touches a nerve with Shaun who backlashes at Combo whilst still coming to terms with his father's death. Combo is touched by the boy's spirit and takes him under his wing and Shaun gladly accepts him as his newly adopted father.

However, Combo's highly militant and unethnical views on ethnic minorities take Shaun into highly dangerous teritory. A Patriotic fire is lit in Shaun after attending a seminar for mass recruitment on the National Front, and though these are claims of national unity, there is an underlining racism that slowly takes hold of Combo and Shaun as they taunt the local Pakistani and black community, and Shaun begins to be unreconisable from the boy we first meet at the beginning of the movie.

Shaun's decent from innocence to vehemence is depicted in such breath-taking scenes as milestones on this journey. Though it will be said that this is a political story about growing up in the eighties, it's more of a story of growing up in the political eighties. Shaun's coming of age is a little bit awkward and is very easy to ignore for the more civil side of life in the eighties. His onscreen romance with the flamboyant Smell, is occasionally laughable, but maybe it's supposed to be as such.

Thomas Turgoose, a young ADD stricken, Grimsby native was cast by director, Shane Meadows, in his usual fashion. Like quite a few of the other actors, he isn't actually and actor, though it is difficult to tell.

This film is a drama film, but there are several funny scenes. Unfortunately, several scenes which are sopposed to be funny including inside jokes from the gang, prove to be too much on the inside and leave the audience meekly amused.

Stephen Graham, also in Snatch and Gangs of New York under goes an amazing transformation to play a hulking, sulking skinhead. It must be difficult to pretend to be a racist, and it's a bit perturbing to say so, but he pulls it off very well. His emotions of anger, guilt, love, and sorrow are amazingly tied into a person who is only ever supposed to be as tough as nails.

The other actors and characters add great tension to the plot as well as the other romantic sub-plot involving pretty Chelsea girl, Lol (Vicky McClure). This film is pure realism, but maybe a bit too much. There are occasions where words get jumbled around too much so that I (nor the subtitles) can barely follow. Though this often happens in real life, and people don't actually talk on cue, for artistic purposes it's not as asthetically pleasing to the ear.

The shots in Shane Meadows movies are often said to be similar to that of Martin Scorcese, and this film is more proof to that. White lighting and tracking shots are used very expertly and add the the very dramatic air of the movie. He also takes us into the eighties by dipping into the primary source, the television. The beginning is a wonderous flashback and perfectly sums up everything there ever was until the year 1983. Another heart-breaking use of television footage from the eighties is shown at the end with pictures of the soldiers and casualties of the Fawklands War. Radio recordings of some of Margret Thatcher's infamous speeches also help set the air of the decade.

One of the absolute best parts of the movie was the soundtrack. Several Toots and the Maytals songs make it into the movie ('54 46 Was My Number', 'Louie Louie', and 'Pressure Drop') as well as The Specials, The Upsetters, and UK Subs. Ludovico Einaudi has also composed some tearful ballads for the real climaxes of the movie. The music fitted seemlessly into the atmosphere and this soundtrack is a must-have for any ska fan.

Notes: OK, so I went to see this with my sister who is a basic ska fan but not a skinhead fan and who I thought would not like. By the end of this movie, she was in tears, it really was that captivating, and my sister and I rarley agree, but this movie was amazing. It really struck a chord with me, maybe to do with my multi-cultural background or perhaps my aquaintennce with many-a skinhead, including my father. Either way, it is just such a good movie. Some really great lines, some hilarious bits. I loved it, can't say much more. Shane Meadows once again did a terriffic job.

I gave this movie a 9/10, but I am generally know as a leneant person. Still, this movie rocked!
Posted on July 26th, 2007 at 07:24pm

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