In 2005 British director Shane Meadows had critics and filmgoers alike firmly at his side when he released the brilliant Dead Man's Shoes. Now in 2007 Meadows returns to the big screen with This Is England.
The film is set in England, 1983, the time of the Falklands war when Margaret Thatcher was in charge of the country. The story follows a young boy named Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) who has recently lost his father who was serving in the war. One day after school he comes across some skinheads who invite him to become a part of the gang. But it’s not long until skinhead Combo (Stephen Graham) turns up and takes Sean on a dangerous road, convincing him he is doing the right thing.
I must admit that I only recently watched Dead Man's Shoes and I soon discovered what a gem it is. So with that firmly in the back of my mind going into This Is England, I was very excited indeed and I am glad to report that I had every right to be.
Sadly though, like Dead Man's Shoes, This Is England is a film many people wont even see; but my god it deserves to be seen and it damn well should be, too, simply because it is such an honest, down to earth, and deeply moving experience. This is British filmmaking at its brilliant best.
Despite being set in the eighties, the parallels that can be made between then and now are amazing; the phrase "things never change" certainly comes to mind after watching this film.
The story is brought to life brilliantly by a fantastic cast that includes newcomer Thomas Turgoose. This is his debut on celluloid and his performance is utterly convincing and he absolutely blew me away; I cant give this young kid enough praise. Stephen Graham hits a career high as the racist skinhead Combo; he plays his character right on the edge and you are just waiting for him to explode. Graham also delivers a speech about the state of play in England with devastating effect; I completely hung on every word he said.
I also must say how much I enjoyed the performance of Joseph Gilgun (yes, the one from Emmerdale). I found his character extremely likable and very funny, too — a very polished performance from the soap star.
To round things off nicely, director Shane Meadows has once again got his soundtrack spot on. The kicking reggae/ska score pumps along beautifully right throughout the picture.
This Is England is an incredible achievement from the up and coming Meadows. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. The best film I have seen so far this year and it will take something special to beat it; this is England indeed.