Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|This is England|
Actors: Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure
Director: Shane Meadows
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
School is out for summer, and 12 year old Shaun is about to find a dangerous new group of friends. Having lost his father in the Falklands War, life has been lonely in this grim coastal town in northern England. When Shau... more »
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An amazingly honest look at 1980's Skinheads in England...re
D. Riordan | Lost Angeles | 08/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This story, both beautiful and disturbing in it's messages and imagery, is about many different themes, all brilliantly woven together by British director, Shane Meadows.
The themes cover Thatcherite England in the 80's, Skinheads (good and bad), racism, bullyism, and the loss of childhood innocence. The film is strongly influenced by Director Shane Meadows childhood experiences as a skinhead, both good and bad.
The outline of the story is that a young "Shaun Fields"(played amazingly by newcomer Tomo Turgoose) lives in a small un-named Northern English town in 1983. "Shaun" has recently lost his father in the early stages of the Falklands War. On the last day of the school term before summer break "Shaun" is harassed over his choice of hippy-like clothing by several cooler kids.
On his way home from school, Shaun chances upon a non-racist skinhead gang (which includes two Jamaican members), led by the charming and lanky "Woody" (played by the affable Joe Gilgun). "Shaun" immediately takes to "Woody" as a surrogate father figure and is soon admitted in to the gang. Admission means parties, a new girlfriend (Rosamund Hanson) a new haircut, a new Ben Sherman shirt, and a new pair of boots (purchased by his mother (Jo Hartley) in an extremely funny scene) as well as a whole new group of friends who treat Shaun as an equal.
All seems well in this quiet English town until one incident changes all of their lives about midway through the film. This is the return of "Combo" (the electrifying Stephen Graham in his first major leading role) from 3 years in prison. "Combo" is the former leader of this gang and wastes no time trying to re-establish his dominance in a direct confrontation with "Woody". "Combo" has become a racist during his 3+ years in prison and views skinheads as the prefect front line soldiers in the National Front's (an extremely conservative political party) war to keep England for "Englishmen."
This confrontation with "Woody" soon splits the gang, some siding with "Combo", others with "Woody". "Shaun" is now forced to choose among father figures and the movie takes a decidedly chillier tone from it's lighthearted first half.
The film is brilliant because all of Meadows characters are complicated and feel like real human beings. "Combo" even offers "Milky" (Andrew Shim), a black skinhead, the chance to join his gang because "Combo" views the immediate problem as the "Paki" (Pakistani) workers who have flooded his town in recent years, taking jobs and houses from Englishmen.
It's the complexities such as this that make the characters (such as the Swastika tattooed Combo) so approachable and compelling to watch.
Even Shaun still appears like an adorable little child as he dresses in an English Cromby coat to go "Paki Bashing" at the local store.
The movie comes to what seems like an almost inevitable violent clash between two of the main characters that, despite its predictability, still jars the viewer, hopefully leaving you sickened. Shaun is then left to decide where his future lies.
The movies story is set against the backdrop of the Falklands War, whose brutal images Meadows deftly juxtaposes against the current violent and desolate climate of 80's England. Meadows was, interestingly, granted full access to many war footage images that had never been released to the public previously.
The film contains a fantastic soundtrack of early "skinhead reggae" tunes, including several songs by Toots and the Maytalls, including "54-46" which is played over a collage of media clips from 80's Britain and the Falklands War. It's a terrific mood setter for the rest of the film.
Meadows shines so brightly (as does his cast) because he intimately knows this material and these characters, many of whom are based on or even named after childhood friends of his.
Some American viewers may initially be off-put by the idea of any "Skinhead" related movie if all they know of skinheads is what they have seen in the American press in the last 20+ years. It may surprise many viewers not familiar with the original skinhead scene (circa 1966-72) in Britain to learn the the original skins (now often called Traditional Skins, Trojan Skins, or '69 skins) were a multi-racial bunch who were an off-shoot from the Mods. They were known, like the Mods, for being sharp dressers and they chose as their music Jamaican Rocksteady, Reggae, and American Soul. The skinhead movement in England largely died out in 1972 and then saw a revival in the late seventies. It's this revival group that was penetrated by the likes of the National Front that Meadows covers here. If you choose to not watch this film based on it's subject matter, you are missing not only one of the best acting performances by a new-comer(Turgoose)in recent history, but you are also missing what will no doubt become considered landmark moment in British film history.
The Kinship and Dangers of Being a Skinhead in 1980s England
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 12/11/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Shane Meadows' semi-autobiographical story of a dejected pubescent boy's transformation into a skinhead in recession-wracked England of 1983 earned "This Is England" top honors at the 2006 British Independent Film Awards. Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is a defiant and cocksure 12-year-old who recently lost his father in the Falklands War. Surrounded by unemployment, malaise, and picked on at school, he finds companionship and an outlet for his frustrations among a group of skinheads whose leader, Woody (Joe Gilgun), takes the boy under his wing. This seems harmless until violent, insecure Combo (Stephen Graham) rejoins his fellow skins after a 3-year stint in prison, shattering the group's camaraderie with racism and crime.
"This Is England" dives into the skinhead counterculture that gave working-class young people a place to belong and share their dissatisfaction. Unemployment and a poor economy made them susceptible to the inflammatory rhetoric of the National Front, causing skinheads to be associated with racism and violence in the popular consciousness. The two stand-out performances are, not surprisingly, the most emotionally charged characters. Thomas Turgoose is completely natural as a foul-mouthed, moody youngster -who looks closer to 9 than 12. Stephen Graham makes Combo's instability and insecurity menacing, always in danger of erupting. I found the poor quality DV out of place in the period setting and less than this film deserves. But the fine performances are worthwhile. The only bonus feature on the IFC DVD (2007) is a theatrical trailer. No subtitles.
Break out your old Sham 69 lps!
D. Hartley | Seattle, WA USA | 11/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A hard-hitting, naturalistic "social drama" reminiscent of the work of Ken Loach and British "angry young man" films of the early 60s (with a slight whiff of "A Clockwork Orange") "This is England" is set against the backdrop of the Thatcher era, circa 1983. The story (reported to be loosely auto-biographical, based on the director's Midlands upbringing) centers around a glum, alienated 12 year-old named Shaun (first-time film actor Thomas Turgoose, in an extraordinary performance) who can't seem to fit in with any of the cliques at his school. Shaun presents a real handful to his loving but somewhat exasperated mother (Jo Hartley),a working-class Falklands War widow who does her best to support herself and her son. After a particularly bad day of being bullied about by teachers and schoolmates, happenstance leads Shaun into the midst of a skinhead gang.
Shaun's initial apprehension is quickly washed away when the sympathetic and good-natured gang leader Woody (Joe Gilgun) takes him under his wing and offers him an unconditional entrée into their little club. Shaun's weary working mum is initially not so crazy about his new pals, but after sizing them up decides essentially to leave her son in their care. Some may feel that this development strains credibility, but I think it's a pragmatic decision. Her son has no siblings, no close friends,and is suffering from the loss of his father; perhaps this surrogate family will give him what she cannot provide.
The idyll is soon shattered, however, when the gang's original leader, Combo (Stephen Graham) is released from prison. Combo's return causes a rift that divides the gang; his jailhouse conversion to racist National Front ideals doesn't settle well with Woody and his supporters, and they break off on their own. Shaun decides to stay on after forming an instant bond with the thuggish Combo, who easily parlays the impressionable Shaun's grief over his father into a blame-shifting hatred of immigrants, with tragic results.
The film works successfully on several levels; as a cautionary tale, a history lesson and a riveting drama. As cautionary tale, it demonstrates how easily the neglected and disenfranchised can be recruited and indoctrinated into the politics of hate. As a history lesson, it's a fascinating glimpse at a not-so-long ago era of complex politics and social upheaval in Great Britain. As a riveting drama, it features some very believable and astounding performances, particularly from the aforementioned young Turgoose and Graham, who positively owns the screen with his charismatic intensity. Not to be missed."