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A great British film - or should that be English?
8/10 There is no doubt that this film is a truly great piece of film-making. Shane Meadows crafts films in the same style as Martin Scorcese. We are given a glimpse into the lifestyle of a group of characters over a short period of time. It is very much a fly on the wall type of movie. The point of these films is to understand the actions of the characters rather than judging their actions. I have no doubt that there will be some people that tag this film as being racist which is rather missing the point.4 years ago
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!
This is brilliant.
8/10 After the success of 'Dead Man's Shoes' local filmmaker Shane Meadows returns with 'This is England' a story of absence and isolation, belonging and the power of persuasion. Set in 1983 with a backdrop of the war in the Falklands the film opens with a montage of relevant images everything from Maggie Thatcher to Knight Rider that really take you back and put you in the right space to meet Shaun. Shaun the films central character (played superbly by newcomer Thomas Turgoose) is a typical eighties kid, riding round on his griffter, washing neighbours cars for cash to buy a catapult and being constantly picked on for being different. When we first meet him we quickly learn that his father was a victim of the war raging at Maggie's command. Enter the gang Woody, Milky, Pukey, et all, a rag tag bunch of mods and skinheads complete with crimped haired girlfriends, with the absence of his father and any real sense of being part of something Shaun is quickly welcomed into the group and takes up not just the mannerisms or clothes but drinking, smoking and growing up to quickly. Things go OK for a while until Combo arrives on the scene. Straight out of prison and a British blooded skinhead through to his core you can sense trouble on the horizon. Soon the gang becomes segmented because of differences of opinion and fuelled by the war and the council estate mentality of accepting foreigners' things start to spiral out of control and Shaun finds himself in way above his head. A brilliantly written script that can at times have you laughing out loud and at others sitting nervously on the edge of your seat as the tension builds is delivered well by all the cast. The music is fitting, mixing eighties chart hits with haunting piano pieces and the cinematography is close to a previous Meadows outing 'A Room for Romeo Brass' which gives it a feel like it was filmed in the eighties. The attention to detail is brilliant as shop shelves are laden with products we no longer see or have long since upgraded there packaging. One of the scariest things was it was hard to imagine that time in this country because any of us who lived through it have almost chosen to block it out completely, but it was done so well and had me fishing in my memory to fit things into the time scale being used. There is defiantly a more matured Meadows at work here but he's lost none of his cheeky charm and observational skill and the characters he's created could have easily have lived next door to me growing up. The metaphor of the country getting behind Thatcher in the Falklands juxtaposed with that of the skinheads, including the initiated Shaun, getting behind the slightly off kilter Combo is handled with a great sense of poignancy and it is moving to see both stories unfold from within the film and library footage. Racism and intolerance are by no means behind us but here we are shown one of the skeletons in the Great British (sic) closet through the eyes of a child and one who would grow up to represent the next generation. Meadows has said in interviews that it is partly based on his experiences growing up and he sees a lot of himself in Shaun, I saw a lot of me in the character but I also saw memories I'd have rather forgotten. Funny, British and bleak Meadows is slowly climbing the ranks to join the Mike Leigh's and Ken Loach's of this world and if this film is anything to go by it wont take him very long. Any fan of Meadows previous work will love it and no doubt delight in his continuing growth as a filmmaker but everyone should see it regardless as it is another fine example of British film at its rawest and best.4 years ago
Best film of the Berlin Film Festival 2007
10/10 I just saw "This Is England" at the Berlin Film Festival where it was screened in the section "Generation 14P". This section is an extension of the former "Kinderfilmfest" for teenagers between 14 and 18 - dealing with more mature issues.4 years ago
I had no clue about it, just that it would be about skinheads in England and that it takes place in the 80s. I wasn't expecting much, hoping for something like a British version of "American History X" - I got a lot more.
When I left the theater I was absolutely stunned! Cast and script were outstanding. I loved the rough editing and grainy camera style that made the movie look a real 80s flick! And last but not least: the soundtrack is a blast! And coming from a director who used to be part of the real scene, it might be the most authentic picture about skinheads ever made.
Although it didn't get as much attention as the Hollywood films that had their premiere at the Berlinale Palast, it's a lot stronger than almost all the films in competition.
I hope it will make its way the movies and not end up as a direct-to-video-flick... 10/10
This is England - The very best British cinema has to offer.
10/10 Fellow Midlander Shane Meadows has produced not only his finest work to date but one of the very best films to come out of Britain that I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. Just as the effectively chilling, bloody (yet arguably flawed) "Dead Man's Shoes" showcased a passionate return to low budget, focused film making, "This Is England" sees him perfect his technique. It is a seemingly effortless achievement that matches a warm, humorous portrayal of a young lad growing up with his experience of the cold brutality that came with the 80s skinhead culture. The way in which Shane blends these two aspects together without compromising on either is most impressive.4 years ago
Delivering a surprising, enchanting performance in the lead role as Shaun, Thomas Turgoose portrays a youngster of incredible warmth and charisma. He is befriended by a relatively harmless gang skirting with the skinhead culture rife at the time. His strength of character in the face of the adversity life throws his way is truly unforgettable, a credit to both Shane as the writer and Thomas as the performer. As Shaun discovers the joy of "belonging" in the gang, the viewer takes a similar journey. Through sublime use of another excellent soundtrack (an ear for music in relation to visuals is one of Shane's most loved and respected trademarks) the joy of youth and life literally springs from the screen.
What is particularly successful is Shane's restraint where it comes to grounding the film in reality. It would have been all too easy to escalate these events above and beyond the core group of characters, creating a power struggle on a much bigger, thrill friendly scale. Instead the film remains focused and convincing, not once do you doubt the likelihood of events. The canvas may be smaller but emotionally "This Is England" resonates more powerfully than ever before, taking the harsh, greys of a story like "Dead Man's Shoes" and enlightening it with a central character full of warmth and honesty. In the end this serves to engage the viewer on a much greater level.
It is in comedy that "This Is England" truly surprises, not the usual splash of dark humour but humour of much broader appeal. Thomas' performance brings the sharp dialogue to life with a wonderful physical range, the first half the film is crammed with delightful comic moments that really draw you in to the character, making future events all the more affecting. Much is made of Shaun's romance with a much older girl, the scenes are tear-jerking in their tender, wonderfully observed realism. There is much in the film that will trigger moments of recognition in the viewer, especially (but not exclusively) those who were young in the 80s.
As big time skinhead Combo (the other stand out performance of the piece from Scouser Stephen Graham) comes out of jail the film takes a U-Turn, presenting a troubling, unrestrained view on racism through extreme nationalism, getting deep under the skin to question the source and nature of such hatred. It is in this that we realise this is a study of human nature as Shaun is presented with more extreme acts that drive him to question the moral behind such irrational prejudices.
Book ending the film is real news footage of the political climate surrounding the events depicted, prominent among which is Maggie Thatcher's invasion of the Falklands (a conflict that's consequences prove key to the central narrative) When asked "Will we ever talk to the Argentines again?" on a radio interview Thatcher purrs "No I don't think so" The parallels are fitting and thoroughly engaging. Inspired, shaped and formed by Shane's own childhood, "This Is England" is ultimately an honest, confident piece of film making right from the heart. The film is a wonderful example of what British cinema has to offer the world. The film may be grounded in period authenticity, but the narrative is ultimately applicable to all of us, having experienced the inescapable process of growing up. Shaun's quality shines through, his experienced may be unique but the messages conveyed are most certainly universal.
This Is... The Best British Film For A Long Time
10/10 I was lucky enough to attend the first UK screening of Shane Meadows' latest offering, THIS IS ENGLAND, last Tuesday at the London Film Festival. Having been a fan of Meadows' work since seeing TWENTYFOURSEVEN in 1998, I have anticipated each of his new films with excitement and great interest. Meadows' films defy categorisation and always exceed expectation, as anyone who has seen A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS or DEAD MAN'S SHOES will attest. THIS IS ENGLAND had a lot to live up to4 years ago
Set during the summer of 1983, THIS IS ENGLAND is the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose); a precocious twelve-year-oldcoming to terms with the death of his father. Shaun is soon inducted into a group of local skinheads; a fun loving bunch who spend days committing petty vandalism and listening to ska records. Although much younger than the other members of the group, Shaun endears himself upon them with his sheer determination and defiance, and is quickly embraced as their mascot. However, the frivolity and naivety comes to an abrupt conclusion when ex-member Combo (Steven Graham) is released from a spell in prison. Combo soon causes a rift within the group and becomes the catalyst for them becoming a militant, racist force.
Anyone familiar with Meadows' earlier work will notice many parallels between this and A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS; the film is told from a child's perspective and the corruption of youth/innocence is an underlining theme. Like ROMEO BRASS, THIS IS ENGLAND manages to balance the light-hearted and often hilarious, with menace and tension that's excruciating to endure. Many British films that attempt dramedy falter because one or the other/both is unconvincing, but Meadows manages to combine comedy and drama seamlessly; the laughs come thick and fact but the jolts come harder than a kick to the head.
Typically for a Meadows film, THIS IS ENGLAND is exceptionally well written with some infectious dialogue and fully-fleshed characters, though one of the film's stand-out attributes is that of Danny Cohen's cinematography. Being a film set during the 80s, its look plays a significant part in the audience buying into the film. Many 80s-set films have been betrayed by garish lighting and ultimately end up looking like contemporary people parading around in 20-year-old clothing. Cohen's photography really manages to encapsulate the bleak feeling that was evident of the time, and is both gritty and dour. THIS IS ENGLAND is a film without polished aesthetics and one that has the raw visual style that's not be seen since the films of Alan Clarke (SCUM, MADE IN Britain, THE FIRM).
In addition to the film's look, Meadow's has raided the vaults for a whole host of archive footage leading thirty-something viewers on a trip down memory lane. The credit sequence alone features footage from Roland Rat, the Falklands and Knight Rider; As a child of the 80s, I literally sat in the cinema beaming It's a great hook into a wonderful film.
As assured as Meadows' writing and direction is, the film benefits greatly from its ensemble cast. Predominantly made up of teenagers, the cast of THIS IS ENGLAND excel beyond belief, without one putting a foot wrong. A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS' Andrew Shim is superb as Milky, as is Stephen Graham as Combo - who gives a terrific and complex performance. However, THIS IS ENGLAND belongs to Thomas "Tommo" Tugoose for a debutant child actor he is astonishing and effortlessly conveys the array of mixed emotions the material requires.
In conclusion, THIS IS ENGLAND is essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in film. Once again Meadows has set a precedent for British filmmakers and has eclipsed many of his contemporaries. THIS IS ENGLAND may not make for comfortable viewing but it is cinema at its best.