This is England

"Excellent"

This is England Review


If Shane Meadows faltered with his vigilante drama Dead Man's Shoes, he makes up for it with room to spare in his latest, This is England. Evoking England in the early 1980s down to the hideous sweaters and burgeoning slang, no other film at this year's Tribeca Film Festival felt as sincere or nostalgic as Meadows' parable of masculine influence and the role of paterfamilias on youthful worship.

As a prattling, chubby boy, Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is the fall-out of decimated British pride. Living fatherless from the Falklands War (which ushered in the days of Margaret Thatcher), angst-ridden Shaun drifts through the rotted-carpet apartments and graffiti-strewn building of a sorry-ass town at the butt-end of nowhere. His angst finds a home, however, when he meets a group of skinhead-punks led by the charismatic Woody (Joseph Gilgun). Woody and his boys wear tight Doc Martens, tucked-in polos, and skinny suspenders: the necessary look for the English Rude Boy, the deterrent to the New Wave. In Woody, Shaun finds a father and a brother that his time-period has left him wanting.

Though Woody and his gang aren't violent, the same cannot be said for Woody's long-lost father/brother figure Combo (Stephen Graham). Combo comes home from prison with a nationalist chip on his shoulder, preparing to find soldiers for what he calls the battle for national pride. Woody's old enough not to buy it, but the only thing more powerful than a father to Shaun is a grandfather. Triggering the pain and hatred from his father's death, Combo soon has Shaun threatening Pakistani shop-owners and looking to Combo for his next move. Combo's motives, however, are easily recognizable as something more to do with masculine insecurities than any sort of nationalist logic.

Meadows shows a strengthening in form here, but also in his attention as a screenwriter. The defectors in Woody's gang are all seen for their insecurities in early scenes, with the exception of one truly political member who is tossed by Combo's wayside after nay-saying the Nationalist lead speaker. Shaun's mother (Jo Hartley) doesn't see the essential differences between the Woody skinheads and Combo's skinheads, allowing Shaun to be ushered into a racist mindset. Mirroring this with Combo's inability to woo Woody's girlfriend, Meadows not only diagnoses the need for masculine leadership in youth but the damages of a motherless existence as one grows older.

Combo is a creation of pure psychological schism and Graham, in an explosive performance, finds all the brute machismo and misguided hope in his character. Turgoose expertly balances the skinhead pathos and misguided sentiments in Shaun, and Meadows makes good on his surroundings, making Shaun's terrain as hopeless as the national identity. Shaun's girlfriend wears caked make-up and sports rat's-nest hair: She is the American 1980s superimposed on the English 1980s. But Shaun, with his long black coat and shaved head, has no intimations towards another nationality: Shaun is England.

Fab five.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 101 mins

In Theaters: Friday 27th April 2007

Box Office USA: $95.8k

Box Office Worldwide: $8.2M

Budget: $2.4M

Distributed by: IFC First Take

Production compaines: EM Media, UK Film Council, Screen Yorkshire, Big Arty Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 84 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 7.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: Mark Herbert

Starring: as Shaun, as Combo, as Cynth, as Milky, as Lol, as Woody, as Meggy, as Gadget, as Pukey Nicholls

Also starring:

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