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THIS IS ENGLAND

SYNOPSIS:
It's 1983 and school is out; 12-year-old Shaun Field (Thomas Turgoose) is an isolated lad growing up in a grim coastal town, whose father has died fighting in the Falklands war. After getting bullied, he finds fresh male role models when those in the local skinhead scene take him in. With his new friends, Shaun discovers a world of parties, first love and the joys of Doc Martin boots. Here he also meets Combo (Stephen Graham), an older, racist skinhead, recently got out of prison. As Combo's gang harasses the local ethnic minorities, Shaun is a willing passenger but when Combo's fury gets out control, Shaun is shocked and has to mature rapidly.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Shane Meadows has taken a traumatic moment of violence from his own childhood, together with the themes of victimisation, bullying and thuggery from his previous film, Dead Man's Shoes, and set the action in 1983, about the time of his own experience with skinheads. (This is England is a catchphrase skinheads used to declare their ownership, and signal their antipathy to outsiders, notably "Pakis".) The film's ambition is to show a journey from innocence to maturity via violence in the Thatcherite Midlands. So while the usual disclaimer at the end tells us that any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, Meadows readily admits to these similarities. Whether Shaun Field (Thomas Turgoose) is really like Shane Meadows (geddit?) was, we don't know, but his experience and his response to it are what matters.

Meadows makes the Falklands war a key backdrop for the story, partly to set the political scene in England, but also because Shaun's dad had been killed in that stupid war. This factor plays strongly in the boy's frame of mind throughout the film, and there is every likelihood that Shaun would never have had to rely on the emotional support from a bunch of skinheads if his father had been around. The insight into skinhead culture is fascinating, illuminating the nature of that scene. The erosion of boundaries to violent behaviour is also well portrayed and Meadows gives the story - such as it is - plenty of meaning by telling it so intimately from Shaun's point of view. That's the benefit of relying on what you know to tell a story.

Performances are excellent, not the least from Thomas Turgoose as young Shaun. With a single buck tooth where normally we'd see two front teeth, Turgoose has individuality on his side, and his characterisation is outstanding. Stephen Graham locks down his increasingly vicious Combo with Russell Crow-like fervour, and Jo Hartley is quietly wonderful as Shaun's mum. Rosamund Hanson is striking and memorable as the high-concept dressing, vividly made up punkette, Smell ("rhymes wiv me name, Michelle, donnit?"). Meadows manages to pull a reasonably balanced tone out of the screenplay, avoiding the depressing after effect that some of his other work generates.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

THIS IS ENGLAND (MA)
(UK, 2006)

CAST: Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure, Joseph Gulgin, Perry Benson, George Newton, Frank Harper

PRODUCER: Mark Herbert

DIRECTOR: Shane Meadows

SCRIPT: Shane Meadows

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Danny Cohen

EDITOR: Chris Wyatt

MUSIC: Ludovico Einaudie

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark Leese

RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 16, 2007







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