Sunday, 22 March 2009

This is England- Review

This is England is a coming of age story about twelve year old Shaun who has lost his father in the Falklands War. Lonely and frustrated, he meets a gang who help him escape, firstly through adolescent fun but then into racism and ultimately extreme violence.

Shane Meadows’ Bafta Award winner is set against the backdrop of Thatcher’s Britain and cuts to the core of confusion in a boy trying to be a man when unsure of which role model to follow. Poignant and engaging, Meadows cuts a sensitive portrait of the fragility of youth.

The film starts with Shaun waking on the last day of term, a picture of his uniformed father placed proudly on the alarm clock. It’s home-clothes day at school and Shaun lashes out at an older boy when his flared trousers were jeered. Miserable on the walk home, he comes across a gang of skinheads- the early kind who listened to ska music and enjoyed spending time with any coloured skin, not the tainted racists that evolved from the jeans, boots and braces style.

The leader of the gang, Woody, takes a liking to the feisty kid and takes him under his wing, introducing him to a group who like fun, running wild, drinking, hanging out and listening to music.

But the tone sours when Combo, Woody’s old mate who’s been inside for three years, is released. Combo forces the gang to divide over his racist beliefs and Shaun, thinking he is doing his dad proud, joins him instead of Woody.

The manipulative and violently unpredictable Combo crafts Shaun into a National Front sympathiser, with sickening consequences.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Meadows’ film is up there with Trainspotting as unmissable British cinema. Well scripted and acted, and with a killer soundtrack, the film is undeniably involving from the start to the painful climax.

Thomas Turgoose, also an award winner as Best Promising Newcomer, is sterling as Shaun, delivering a disconcertingly natural performance from a fifteen year old with no previous acting experience and Stephen Graham does a frankly intimidating job as Combo.

It deserves to be seen and is an encouraging nod to the calibre of Brit film. Nine out of ten. Let’s hope for more of this quality.

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