Published on July 6th, 2017 | by Allan Brown0
EIFF 2017: England Is Mine Review
Movie Review: England Is Mine (2017)
UK Release Date: 4th August 2017
Running Time: 94 minutes
Director: Mark Gill
Writers: Mark Gill, William Thacker
Cast: Jack Lowden, Jessica Brown Findlay, Jodie Comer, Laurie Kynaston, Peter McDonald
Traversing the landscape of a music biopic can be a tricky feat at the best of times. On the one hand you have an established fan base locked in and ready to go. Whilst on the other, you have a huge level of responsibility and expectation to manage. Some examples have been compelling – Control, 24 Hour Party People and Walk the Line, whilst many others, not so compelling – The Doors, Notorious and Man in the Mirror. Despite this, the popularity for the music biopic continues to rise with studios ever ready to feed the growing demand. This year see’s director Mark Gill bring the genius of Morrissey – Manchester’s very own thespian grump, to the silver screen in England is Mine.
This is Morrissey pre-smiths, so instead of building a film round the bands hits – like most music biopics do, we instead negotiate the fabric of what inspired the young Steven Patrick Morrissey in the first place. Note, there are no Smiths songs in England is Mine. Whether this was down to a rights issue with the film being an unofficial biopic, or whether it was the directors decision from the off. It does not deter the fact it was an inspired move and a welcomed breath of fresh air in a genre that is often an overdose of repetition. This allows Gill to hone in on the character more precisely, in finer detail and without distraction. As a result, we are presented with a wonderfully rich character study that explodes with personality and sincerity.
It’s 1970s Manchester and Steven Patrick Morrissey paces the roof of his office job at the Inland Revenue and Customs. With notepad in hand, he furiously scribbles lines of poetry and verses of a song that seem to fall from the sky. You see, Steven is a self confessed genius, and when he’s not citing Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde he’s writing letters to music magazines to express his distain at the mediocrity of the Manchester music scene. Despite his soaring ambitions of becoming the next big thing in music, the fact remains, Steven suffers from crippling anxiety and has never sang a note to anyone or outside the four walls of his gloomy teenage bedroom. Despite his banal existence – as he sees it, Steven must walk the line and find peace between his towering ambition and living an ‘ordinary’ life.
Cementing his position as a rising star in what feels like an effortless performance is Scotland’s own Jack Lowden (Tommy’s Honour/Dunkirik). He exudes the dreary temperament, sharp wit and deadly cynicism Morrissey is so famous for with ease, supplying many laugh out loud moments. But it is in the layers of emotion that linger just beneath the surface that allow Lowden to really showcase his skills as an actor. Without words, we feel his paralyzing sensitivity, his crushing lonliness and thundering pain that failure brings him with devastating effect. In the supporting roles, Jessica Brown Findlay does a superb job as Steven’s closest friend Linder Sterling. Their interactions are full of wit and charm and are always a joy to witness. Simone Kirby who plays Steven’s mother is another pillar of strength in his life. They share some extremely tender and heartfelt moments, especially during Steven’s darkest moments of despair.
Mark Gill has successfully reinvented the wheel with England is Mine. Instead of jumping through the usual tired hoops associated with such films, he has neatly chosen, not to tell the whole story, not to create a playlist of hits, and not even to focus of the success of the artist, but instead the inspirations and influences that paved his way.
Summary: A deep and insightful look at the man, before he became, THE MAN.