Published on July 22nd, 2013 | by Allan Brown0
This is England Review
Movie Review: This is England (2006)
Director: Shane Meadows
Cast: Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure, Joseph Gilgun, Rosamund Hanson, Andrew Ellis
Plot: Shaun, a troubled and impressionable 12 year old boy growing up in Thatcher’s England falls in with a group of likeable skinheads who soon become like family. The atmosphere of the group however, quickly changes when a shady face from their past re-emerges.
BAFTA award winning Writer/Director Shane Meadows often chooses to examine themes that echo the harsh realities of life, with grit and a hard-hitting sense of realism. This is one of the reasons he has been hailed as a modern day Mike Leigh or Ken Loach. The now multi awarding winning film “This Is England” is the fifth feature by the British director and is based on his own experiences growing up in England during the turbulent times of the early 80s.
Set over the summer holidays of 1983, Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a lonely and bullied 12 year old dealing with the death of his dad moves to a small coastal town with his single mum Cynth (Jo Hartley). Feeling lost, Shaun falls in with a group of like-able and surprisingly friendly older skinheads. The Gang leaders Woody (Joe Gilgun) and Milky (Andrew Shim) provide new role models, and Shaun’s new found friends act as both, a new family as well as a giving him a new lease of life in parties, music, Ben Sherman shirts, girlfriends and of course, Dr Marten boots.
The innocence and laid-back camaraderie of the gang is soon split with the arrival of Combo, (Stephen Graham) a National Front and overtly racist skinhead (who blames England’s economic downturn and growing unemployment on the influx of foreign minorities) who returns from prison causing the group to splinter, forcing Shaun who feels a sense of duty to his father down a dangerous path.
The film is essentially a snapshot of England during the early eighties, seen through the eyes of the British working class. The Falklands War has ended but the battle of mass unemployment and racism rages on in Thatchers Britain and the film manages to capture the era and mood of the time extremely well. Shot on 16mm film gives the movie a raw and immediate edge which is interlaced seamlessly with library footage of Roland Rat, Margaret Thatcher, the Royal Wedding and the Falklands War. The film handles themes of masculinity, rejection, subcultures, brotherhood, role models, violence and race-hate with ease, and its subject, message and politicized long view never feels preachy or forced. Meadows expertly balances the personal with the political, highlighting the importance of brotherhood and role models while also warning of their dangers.
The movies cast breathe life into the film and offer some astonishingly natural and spontaneous performances. Notable the actors were all very inexperienced and for the most part gathered from the local youth theatre group. The lead, (Thomas Turgoose) gives a beautifully honest, powerful and deeply moving portrayal as Shaun.
The supporting cast give equally stunning performances, particularly the charismatic Joseph Gilgun and the terrifying Stephen Graham whose scenes are incredibly tense, simmering with an undercurrent of hatred and anger.
The soundtrack pulses throughout and compliments the the movie effortlessly. Toots and the Maytals, the Specials and Ian Dury play throughout the drama and the heavy hearted tragedy that follows.
In 2010 Shane Meadows continued the story with a follow up series for channel 4 in the UK entitled This is England 86 which catches up with the gang three years after the original film. In 2011 a second instalment was aired This is England 88 and finally a third which is in the process and is rumoured to be scheduled for 2013, titled; This is England 90
Summary: This is England is an engaging, well written and superbly directed film that's evocative, gripping, funny, suspenseful and ultimately moving.