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This Is England
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This Is England – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

It’s the early 1980s and twelve year old Shaun (Turgoose) has recently lost his dad in the Falklands War.
He lives on a grim council estate in northern England with his mother and goes to a school where he’s mocked mercilessly for whatever reason his classmates can think of.
On his way home one day, he stumbles across a group of benign teenage skinheads, led by the good-humoured Woody (Gilgun). Feeling sorry for the plucky kid, they take him under their wings and soon give him everything he needs to fit in – a good pair of jeans, a Ben Sherman shirt, a pair of braces and the all-important hair-cut – oh, and one of the girls in the gang takes an unhealthy – but welcome – interest in him.
The sweet coming of age tale takes a sudden and shocking turn for the worse when a former gang member, Combo (Graham) rejoins the group after being released from jail.
He’s more the kind of skinhead you’d expect – violent, racist and dangerously persuasive. But Woody’s put all that behind him, so young Shaun soon finds himself torn between sticking with the warm-hearted Woody or jumping ship and following the deeply bitter and combative Combo.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

This latest – and most mature – film from the idiosyncratic low-budget director Shane Meadows succeeds on every level; as a coming of age film, a study of skinhead culture and racism in Thatcher’s inner cities and as a nostalgic window on the early 1980s.
Universally, the performances are outstanding – but Thomas Turgoose deserves to be singled out as one of the cinema discoveries of the year.
The warmth and humour of the first half is matched by the gritty and shocking horror as Combo ratchets up his uncontrollable hate towards the end of the film.
Meadows says many of Shaun’s experiences are based on events he experienced in his own childhood – and he’s keen to stress that skinheads were about more than just racism and hate but about a cultural movement based on music and fashion.
This film will turn your perception of such gangs on its head and – regrettably – back again.

WHAT ELSE?

Meadows has expressed his dissatisfaction that the BBFC gave this film an 18 certificate, meaning that much of the audience he made it for can’t see it. A number of local councils across the country appear to agree with him and have exercised their discretion as licencing authorities and rated the film 15 in their areas.

opens nationwide 27th April 2007

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