This Is England Reviews
Obviously, the skins do have some of the best music which helps any film. Toots rules.
The film uses the Falkland War as a backdrop - one of the more ridiculous wars in recent memory. Good and loyal Englishmen died trying to keep a bunch of rocks halfway across the world in British hands - never mind that having those rocks has absolutely no value to the Brit populace.
We see an 11 year old boy, Sean (in a wonderful portrayal by Thomas Turgoose) whose father was lost in battle. Being fatherless and frequently bullied at school, he is looking for a place to belong, and perhaps, in a larger sense, looking for a father figure. As the film progresses both are provided. First he is befriended by the leader of a local gang, who appreciate the boy's moxy and quick wit. The gang members are all in their early to mid twenties and do typical bad boy stuff like smashing up the interiors of abandoned housing projects - hooliganism that really isn't hurting anyone.
But the gang and its leader have a past, which is eventually revealed when the leaders "mate" comes back into town after a 3 year prison stay. It then becomes known that the gang are (or were) skinheads, not the Americanized, Nazi loving brand, but more of a nationalist movement (in fact, there is a meeting in the back of a bar with posters urging support of the Nationalist Party). Combo, the ex con (a very strong performance by Stephen Graham), claims that the skinheads are pro English, and not bigots (he reasons that the problem lies in all the Pakistani immigrants who are either on the dole or are taking jobs for cheap, thus robbing hard working English blokes of a decent wage).
Combo woos Sean into staying with his more hardcore version of the gang, while his mentor tells Combo that he's not buying the hype. Sean is duped by Combo who tells him that he's got to stand up and make his father's death have meaning.
Eventually a father/son bond develops between the two, only to be shattered when it is revealed that Combo isn't who he purports to be, leading to a heartwrenching and powerful closing scene that reveals a certain inner strength and gives gravitas to the title.
Director: Shane Meadows
Summary: Set in 1983, this semi autobiographical drama from writer-director Shane Meadows follows a lonely 11-year-old boy named Shaun as he grieves over the recent death of his father, who was killed fighting in the Falklands War. When he falls in with a gang of young skinheads, Shaun's pain and anger make him susceptible to carrying out the group's hateful agenda, exposing a dark side of modern Britain not often seen in the movies.
My Thoughts: "This movie, for me, was a learning experience. I'm not the most informed person when it comes to the skinhead culture, or that there was different types of skinheads. So it's a film that definitely left me with new knowledge about the era and how it started crossing the line's of hate. The movie is very well done, with impressive performances from Thomas Turgoose and Stephen Graham. Shaun obviously sees a father figure in Combo, and Combo sees his younger self in Shaun. I found the relationship between Shaun and Smell to be quite disturbing. I'm astounded at how angry the mother was about her son having a shaved head, yet had no complaints about her eleven year old having a tattoo or dating a much older girl. But then again maybe she just feels very strongly about hair considering how fantastic her's looked. Seriously though, the film is very interesting, thought provoking, and brutally honest and raw. The character's are believable and make you care for them. Even Combo. A must see British film."
The film follows Shaun a 12 year old being borough up in early 80's England. He has lost his father in the Falklands war and suffers bullying and isolation until he is befriended by a group of skinheads. The happy band are challenged when Combo is released from prison. Thomas Turgoose is magnificent in the lead role and the direction/screenplay are also spot on the mark. For anybody that lived through the period there are lots of reminders about the period. The film is based on Meadow's own childhood and is quite mesmerising at times.
I was gripped throughout the film and it also gave me plenty to think about afterwards. What more can you ask for when going to the movies? I suppose if you go to the movies for escapism then go watch something else, but if you want a gripping thought provoking drama then it doesn't come much better than this. Outstanding!
I did find the bit with Smell a bit odd - what has to be a 16, (at least), year old getting on with a 12 year old boy, (who looks younger), but you kind of got the impression she wasn't all that bright, so perhaps the mental age was about the same (the actress who plays her was very good). Also really had to wonder about the mother - had a fit over the skin head hair cut and seemed to just not notice anything worse that her son was up to.
A story about a troubled boy growing up in England, set in 1983. He comes across a few skinheads on his way home from school, after a fight. They become his new best friends even like family. Based on experiences of director Shane Meadows.
With his gift for sly naturalistic dialogue, skillful use of music and ability to frame poignant beauty into shots of the everyday, Shane Meadows is arguably the finest film-maker working in England today; and 'This is England' is among his best works, its understated account of ordinary youths just hanging out in the recession of the 1980s perfectly judged. Out of this, a plot develops, based on the growing involvement of the gang in skinhead politics. This transition does feel slightly manufactured, as the story places its characters in a slightly artificial state of innocence and thus depicts racism as something external that descends upon them, rather than as something more innately part of the fabric of their lives. But Meadows shows his customary strength in his depiction of (in some senses) unsavoury human beings with sympathy where appropriate, and where not, still with humanity: at their least edifying, his characters are still 100% human. The acting, meanwhile, from an inexperienced cast, is consistently great. "Low budget" can mean quick and perfunctory; but Meadows makes visual poetry. It's a tragedy that this in itself is apparently sufficient to preclude his wider success.
A young boy bullied at school joins the local skinheads in early 80's Britain, but the fun and games soon start to turn nasty and violent.
You can feel the smooth sincerity of the film-making even amid the grit of its subject matter... which makes the film all the more endearing despite its seriously dark and alienating content. Meadows maintains a deep intimacy with the pulse of his setting that allows simple events to carry immense weight without need for over-dramatization.
Think of it as a grounded prequel to the "Clockwork Orange" which loses none of its visceral ambiance despite its sobriety.
The film also captures the era well. From production design to the characters as commentary on their generations, few dramas deliver such solid and real situations. This film is an interesting immersion into a wholly unique culture, and the favor the director does for us is that one needs only observe to understand.