Although I haven’t seen all of Shane Meadows’ films, I consider myself a fan after seeing his two excellent flicks, Dead Man’s Shoes and This Is England. Somers Town is his latest; a short and sweet tale that’s funny, enjoyable and very hard to dislike.
While visiting London to get away from home for a while, young Tomo meets up with a Polish boy roughly the same age as him, the day after getting beaten up by a gang. The film follows the two as they become friends and what happens when they meet an older girl they both fancy.
In relation to Meadows’ other films this is decisively tame, if I may use such a strong word. It’s not that it doesn’t deal with issues we have come to expect from the film-maker but it deals with them in a less harsh and brash way. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, in fact it gives a calming break from some of the heavier films in the director’s catalogue, but it’s just unusual to see.
Meadows’ has made the choice to have the majority of the film in black and white and it was a great choice to make. It somehow makes the film that much more realistic and even makes you take more notice of whatever is happening on-screen than if it had been done entirely in colour.
I couldn’t believe that young Thomas Turgoose gave his first ever performance in Meadows’, This Is England, last year. For a first timer that performance was superb and I could tell that he is going to go far in the film industry from there on out. In Somers Town Turgoose has gained that much needed confidence and an abundance of charisma to go along with it. Some of the lines he comes out with in this film had me, and the rest of the audience, in stitches laughing. What compensates from the lack of all-out powerful scenes that we’re used to from Meadows, take This Is England as a strong example, is the sense of humour layered throughout the film. Nothing that happens on-screen is even half as brash and primal as anything in This Is England or Dead Man’s Shoes but when it comes down to it I guess this isn’t supposed to be like Meadows’ other films. I think it’s meant for us to see a lighter side to the film-maker, a side we didn’t necessarily know he had. It has the type of humour that’s “funny because it’s true”, a type of humour I very much appreciate from time to time.
It’s been made abundantly clear from Dead Man’s Shoes and This Is England that Meadows is an extremely talented film-maker and his talent certainly continues in Somers Town. It’s quite amazing how he is able to create all these different kinds of scenes, in tone and affection and the like, and gel them together so well. One scene it will be deadly serious, in this case there’s an early scene involving Turgoose’s character getting beaten up, and then go straight on to one which will have you chuckling away. I can’t think of that many film-makers who have the ability to make a film work as well as Meadows does.
Meadows has always been one for tackling varied and diverse subjects in his films. In This Is England it was racism and the skinhead culture of the 80’s and Dead Man’s Shoes it was retribution and revenge (and an abundance of others at the same time for both films), and for Somers Town it is how two people from very different places can come together and be friends, despite the vast differences between them.
I can very comfortably recommend Somers Town not just as a movie in general but as a break-in film for any potential newcomers to Meadows’ work. It has elements everyone has come to expect and love from the film-maker and this should let you get used to his style before getting hit with the more shocking and powerful stuff that’s in his other films. Meadows’ is one of British film-making’s treasures and I can only hope his talent continues for a very long time to come.