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  • I was lucky enough to attend the first UK screening of Shane Meadows' latest offering, THIS IS ENGLAND, last Tuesday at the London Film Festival. Having been a fan of Meadows' work since seeing TWENTYFOURSEVEN in 1998, I have anticipated each of his new films with excitement and great interest. Meadows' films defy categorisation and always exceed expectation, as anyone who has seen A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS or DEAD MAN'S SHOES will attest. THIS IS ENGLAND had a lot to live up to…

    Set during the summer of 1983, THIS IS ENGLAND is the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose); a precocious twelve-year-oldcoming to terms with the death of his father. Shaun is soon inducted into a group of local skinheads; a fun loving bunch who spend days committing petty vandalism and listening to ska records. Although much younger than the other members of the group, Shaun endears himself upon them with his sheer determination and defiance, and is quickly embraced as their mascot. However, the frivolity and naivety comes to an abrupt conclusion when ex-member Combo (Steven Graham) is released from a spell in prison. Combo soon causes a rift within the group and becomes the catalyst for them becoming a militant, racist force.

    Anyone familiar with Meadows' earlier work will notice many parallels between this and A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS; the film is told from a child's perspective and the corruption of youth/innocence is an underlining theme. Like ROMEO BRASS, THIS IS ENGLAND manages to balance the light-hearted and often hilarious, with menace and tension that's excruciating to endure. Many British films that attempt dramedy falter because one or the other/both is unconvincing, but Meadows manages to combine comedy and drama seamlessly; the laughs come thick and fact but the jolts come harder than a kick to the head.

    Typically for a Meadows film, THIS IS ENGLAND is exceptionally well written with some infectious dialogue and fully-fleshed characters, though one of the film's stand-out attributes is that of Danny Cohen's cinematography. Being a film set during the 80s, its look plays a significant part in the audience buying into the film. Many 80s-set films have been betrayed by garish lighting and ultimately end up looking like contemporary people parading around in 20-year-old clothing. Cohen's photography really manages to encapsulate the bleak feeling that was evident of the time, and is both gritty and dour. THIS IS ENGLAND is a film without polished aesthetics and one that has the raw visual style that's not be seen since the films of Alan Clarke (SCUM, MADE IN Britain, THE FIRM).

    In addition to the film's look, Meadow's has raided the vaults for a whole host of archive footage leading thirty-something viewers on a trip down memory lane. The credit sequence alone features footage from Roland Rat, the Falklands and Knight Rider; As a child of the 80s, I literally sat in the cinema beaming – It's a great hook into a wonderful film.

    As assured as Meadows' writing and direction is, the film benefits greatly from its ensemble cast. Predominantly made up of teenagers, the cast of THIS IS ENGLAND excel beyond belief, without one putting a foot wrong. A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS' Andrew Shim is superb as Milky, as is Stephen Graham as Combo - who gives a terrific and complex performance. However, THIS IS ENGLAND belongs to Thomas "Tommo" Tugoose – for a débutant child actor he is astonishing and effortlessly conveys the array of mixed emotions the material requires.

    In conclusion, THIS IS ENGLAND is essential viewing for anyone with even a passing interest in film. Once again Meadows has set a precedent for British filmmakers and has eclipsed many of his contemporaries. THIS IS ENGLAND may not make for comfortable viewing but it is cinema at its best.
  • There is no doubt that this film is a truly great piece of film-making. Shane Meadows crafts films in the same style as Martin Scorcese. We are given a glimpse into the lifestyle of a group of characters over a short period of time. It is very much a fly on the wall type of movie. The point of these films is to understand the actions of the characters rather than judging their actions. I have no doubt that there will be some people that tag this film as being racist which is rather missing the point.

    The film follows Shaun a 12 year old being borough up in early 80's England. He has lost his father in the Falklands war and suffers bullying and isolation until he is befriended by a group of skinheads. The happy band are challenged when Combo is released from prison. Thomas Turgoose is magnificent in the lead role and the direction/screenplay are also spot on the mark. For anybody that lived through the period there are lots of reminders about the period. The film is based on Meadow's own childhood and is quite mesmerising at times.

    I was gripped throughout the film and it also gave me plenty to think about afterwards. What more can you ask for when going to the movies? I suppose if you go to the movies for escapism then go watch something else, but if you want a gripping thought provoking drama then it doesn't come much better than this. Outstanding!
  • I just saw "This Is England" at the Berlin Film Festival where it was screened in the section "Generation 14P". This section is an extension of the former "Kinderfilmfest" for teenagers between 14 and 18 - dealing with more mature issues.

    I had no clue about it, just that it would be about skinheads in England and that it takes place in the 80s. I wasn't expecting much, hoping for something like a British version of "American History X" - I got a lot more.

    When I left the theater I was absolutely stunned! Cast and script were outstanding. I loved the rough editing and grainy camera style that made the movie look a real 80s flick! And last but not least: the soundtrack is a blast! And coming from a director who used to be part of the real scene, it might be the most authentic picture about skinheads ever made.

    Although it didn't get as much attention as the Hollywood films that had their premiere at the Berlinale Palast, it's a lot stronger than almost all the films in competition.

    I hope it will make its way the movies and not end up as a direct-to-video-flick... 10/10
  • Fellow Midlander Shane Meadows has produced not only his finest work to date but one of the very best films to come out of Britain that I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. Just as the effectively chilling, bloody (yet arguably flawed) "Dead Man's Shoes" showcased a passionate return to low budget, focused film making, "This Is England" sees him perfect his technique. It is a seemingly effortless achievement that matches a warm, humorous portrayal of a young lad growing up with his experience of the cold brutality that came with the 80s skinhead culture. The way in which Shane blends these two aspects together without compromising on either is most impressive.

    Delivering a surprising, enchanting performance in the lead role as Shaun, Thomas Turgoose portrays a youngster of incredible warmth and charisma. He is befriended by a relatively harmless gang skirting with the skinhead culture rife at the time. His strength of character in the face of the adversity life throws his way is truly unforgettable, a credit to both Shane as the writer and Thomas as the performer. As Shaun discovers the joy of "belonging" in the gang, the viewer takes a similar journey. Through sublime use of another excellent soundtrack (an ear for music in relation to visuals is one of Shane's most loved and respected trademarks) the joy of youth and life literally springs from the screen.

    What is particularly successful is Shane's restraint where it comes to grounding the film in reality. It would have been all too easy to escalate these events above and beyond the core group of characters, creating a power struggle on a much bigger, thrill friendly scale. Instead the film remains focused and convincing, not once do you doubt the likelihood of events. The canvas may be smaller but emotionally "This Is England" resonates more powerfully than ever before, taking the harsh, greys of a story like "Dead Man's Shoes" and enlightening it with a central character full of warmth and honesty. In the end this serves to engage the viewer on a much greater level.

    It is in comedy that "This Is England" truly surprises, not the usual splash of dark humour but humour of much broader appeal. Thomas' performance brings the sharp dialogue to life with a wonderful physical range, the first half the film is crammed with delightful comic moments that really draw you in to the character, making future events all the more affecting. Much is made of Shaun's romance with a much older girl, the scenes are tear-jerking in their tender, wonderfully observed realism. There is much in the film that will trigger moments of recognition in the viewer, especially (but not exclusively) those who were young in the 80s.

    As big time skinhead Combo (the other stand out performance of the piece from Scouser Stephen Graham) comes out of jail the film takes a U-Turn, presenting a troubling, unrestrained view on racism through extreme nationalism, getting deep under the skin to question the source and nature of such hatred. It is in this that we realise this is a study of human nature as Shaun is presented with more extreme acts that drive him to question the moral behind such irrational prejudices.

    Book ending the film is real news footage of the political climate surrounding the events depicted, prominent among which is Maggie Thatcher's invasion of the Falklands (a conflict that's consequences prove key to the central narrative) When asked "Will we ever talk to the Argentines again?" on a radio interview Thatcher purrs "No… I don't think so" The parallels are fitting and thoroughly engaging. Inspired, shaped and formed by Shane's own childhood, "This Is England" is ultimately an honest, confident piece of film making right from the heart. The film is a wonderful example of what British cinema has to offer the world. The film may be grounded in period authenticity, but the narrative is ultimately applicable to all of us, having experienced the inescapable process of growing up. Shaun's quality shines through, his experienced may be unique but the messages conveyed are most certainly universal.
  • After the success of 'Dead Man's Shoes' local filmmaker Shane Meadows returns with 'This is England' a story of absence and isolation, belonging and the power of persuasion. Set in 1983 with a backdrop of the war in the Falklands the film opens with a montage of relevant images everything from Maggie Thatcher to Knight Rider that really take you back and put you in the right space to meet Shaun. Shaun the films central character (played superbly by newcomer Thomas Turgoose) is a typical eighties kid, riding round on his griffter, washing neighbours cars for cash to buy a catapult and being constantly picked on for being different. When we first meet him we quickly learn that his father was a victim of the war raging at Maggie's command. Enter the gang Woody, Milky, Pukey, et all, a rag tag bunch of mods and skinheads complete with crimped haired girlfriends, with the absence of his father and any real sense of being part of something Shaun is quickly welcomed into the group and takes up not just the mannerisms or clothes but drinking, smoking and growing up to quickly. Things go OK for a while until Combo arrives on the scene. Straight out of prison and a British blooded skinhead through to his core you can sense trouble on the horizon. Soon the gang becomes segmented because of differences of opinion and fuelled by the war and the council estate mentality of accepting foreigners' things start to spiral out of control and Shaun finds himself in way above his head. A brilliantly written script that can at times have you laughing out loud and at others sitting nervously on the edge of your seat as the tension builds is delivered well by all the cast. The music is fitting, mixing eighties chart hits with haunting piano pieces and the cinematography is close to a previous Meadows outing 'A Room for Romeo Brass' which gives it a feel like it was filmed in the eighties. The attention to detail is brilliant as shop shelves are laden with products we no longer see or have long since upgraded there packaging. One of the scariest things was it was hard to imagine that time in this country because any of us who lived through it have almost chosen to block it out completely, but it was done so well and had me fishing in my memory to fit things into the time scale being used. There is defiantly a more matured Meadows at work here but he's lost none of his cheeky charm and observational skill and the characters he's created could have easily have lived next door to me growing up. The metaphor of the country getting behind Thatcher in the Falklands juxtaposed with that of the skinheads, including the initiated Shaun, getting behind the slightly off kilter Combo is handled with a great sense of poignancy and it is moving to see both stories unfold from within the film and library footage. Racism and intolerance are by no means behind us but here we are shown one of the skeletons in the Great British (sic) closet through the eyes of a child and one who would grow up to represent the next generation. Meadows has said in interviews that it is partly based on his experiences growing up and he sees a lot of himself in Shaun, I saw a lot of me in the character but I also saw memories I'd have rather forgotten. Funny, British and bleak Meadows is slowly climbing the ranks to join the Mike Leigh's and Ken Loach's of this world and if this film is anything to go by it wont take him very long. Any fan of Meadows previous work will love it and no doubt delight in his continuing growth as a filmmaker but everyone should see it regardless as it is another fine example of British film at its rawest and best.
  • 'This is England' is a must see for the type of persons who enjoy a good old 'innocence of youth' narrative (including a very comedic, almost cringe inducing, 'first kiss' scene) layered with powerful retrospective British realism reflecting early 1980's societal issues of the type that you wont see on any saccharin dipped 'i remember 1982' clip show.

    Based largely around the 'skinhead' activities of the early eighties its interesting to note that the story really draws distinctions between the types of skinheads - the nazi/racist and the two-tone/soul loving skinheads.

    Much like Mr Meadows other outings which tend to include a lot of relatively unknown and TV only actors/actresses, they all throw in sterling performances, particularly Stephen 'snatch' Graham as 'Combo'(sp.?) and the unknown Thomas Turgoose as young 'Sean'(sp?).

    The soundtrack is as usual strategically lined up to help convey with the overall look and feel, with musical styles ranging from reggae (toots and the maytals), punk and two tone. It does however include new music presumably for a soundtrack album sales point of view, what with the most underrated Clayhill covering The Smiths(?).

    overall: its as retrospective sharp as it is thought provoking, so if you lived anywhere near this time then see it: you may just like it. I you didn't then learn from this time in history when skin heads were either very open minded or very closed minded.
  • A snippet of life in 1983- told through the eyes of an impressionable 12 year old-against the back-drop of the Falklands War.

    This film shows Director Shane Meadows at his best, a new generation Mike Leigh/Ken Loach. Gritty, ultra-real story telling (not least because it reflects time and events from Meadows own childhood.

    From the outside this movie might look like an all out "Doom and Gloom" exercise (akin to Nil By Mouth?), but it is so much more! It has a great sense of love and nostalgia for the time and place-not too mention the Skinhead culture. However, it also shows how the initially innocent fashion trend of the Skinhead- which came from the "Mods" and "Ska" music scene- was twisted and subverted by a racist element from within. Fashioning a striking look (near bald heads with imposing Dr Martin boots) a perfect foil for those wanting to make a clear impression of aggression for the National Front.

    Performances are great- Turgoose as the young fatherless lonely boy- searching for someone to lead the way. Special mention to Stephen Graham as the aggressive, neo-Nazi, Combo. He is a horribly violent man, but played with such depth by Graham, you can see he has his own issues which have destroyed him. Ultimately, he is the saddest and most tragic of all the characters in it.Graham's is an Oscar/Bafta performance if ever there was one! Summary- A brilliant slice of life from the 80's reconstructed with love , affection, humour and a dash of "Venom"- eat your heart out "Spideyman"!
  • The skinhead culture fascinates many directors and it's understandable. It's one of the few remaining subcultures in the West, much because of the Nazi connections.

    But the skins in this movie aren't political and no racists to start with. One of the gang members is even black. They live in a happy community in the early 80s, having fun and being together in a totally grey unfriendly working class environment. It's very hopeful and the 12-year-old finds himself accepted for the first time in his life. His longing for the dead father of the Falklands war is somewhat replaced.

    But darkness arrives with the skin veteran who comes back from jail. And there are conflicts between the racist fraction and the others. But whatever this is, it's not black and white. The characters are much more complicated.

    Much has been said about young Thomas Turgoose as the 12-year-old. He's very good but the great portrait is by Stephen Graham as the old/new gang leader. Absolutely brilliant work.
  • I wouldn't normally bother inflicting my opinion on others via this database. However, I felt compelled to re-iterate all the positive reviews and comments I've seen here and elsewhere for this truly wonderful film.

    I was lucky enough to be given a free ticket for the BFI Festival viewing last Tuesday. A wonderful woman (now known as Lily) collared me in the queue for tickets and generously offered me a spare.

    We sat down and I knew things were looking good when the cast were introduced but eschewed the usual Q&A session by quickly introducing themselves and asking us to simply enjoy the film adding that if anyone had any questions at the end they'd be milling around for a chat.

    Anyway, enough of the preamble, to the film - it's an exemplary piece of work beautifully encapsulating the feelings of the eighties. The avarice of that time (both political and economic) juxtaposed against the heightened sense of revolt against a Thatcherite government that truly didn't seem to give a toss about anyone who wasn't on the gravy train.

    The script is razor sharp and the acting excellent! I'm not going to waste your time reviewing it but I will say, please go and see it for yourself (especially if you were growing up during the eighties)...

    You'll be rewarded with a superb soundtrack, laughter, sadness and at times real, palpable, tension.

    Love & Rockets, Lord E.
  • Seen at: BFI - London Film Festival Shane Medows take on pro-Nazi minority groups comes at a time where racist extremism is uncannily blurred itself out of the picture. Although we are familiar with the non less aesthetic fear to terrorist attacks by fundamentalist Muslim groups, we have somehow forgot the 'collateral' damage that could arise in the eve of a Paris-suburb-style racial riot.

    This is England perpetuates a picture of a country not far from the one we are overlooking now but puts aside the blossoming images sold to the outside world of a hectic and prosperous London and a gay Brighton. The film takes us back to the Thatcher years in a clearly accentuated north of England ridden by jobless youth and financially stretch families, encapsulating a small landscape of issues that stirred the nation under the "Iron Lady's rule".

    Medows takes us in what could be described as the "deep England journey". North of the black underground line lay other counties where unemployment and lack of cultural resources are becoming predecessors for extremist thoughts. Social tensions are on the rise, and a new radical party, The National Front is taking advantage of the situation by blending anger and national pride, rallying people around the country.

    Matching the style of Mathieu Kassovitz (also director and writer) in La Haine, historical footage of the époque is embedded in between frames to illustrate the social expression of society. Furthermore, Danny Cohen's photography beautifully sets the landscape for the characters to take centre stage.

    The storyline evolves around a social micro-cosmos. The characters represent the blue print of residual society, perpetuated in the form of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose). At a very young age, Shaun has already endured the loose of his father at the Falklands War as well as facing financial hardship. He stands daily bulling from school peers, which brings him to state of outcast.

    He then becomes approached by an urban tribe of Ska-mod skin-heads. The group takes him under its wing as if a sort of mascot, although Shaun quickly becomes a strong character within the group, thanks to his stand up attitude. The group is soon divided by the return of old gang member Combo (Steven Graham) after a brief term in prison. Combo represents the pro-Nazi skinheads versus the fun loving petty vandalism of the Ska music and mod style teenagers.

    Steven Graham work deserves a standing ovation, far away of easy slapstick pop-corn performance he produced in Snatch (Guy Ritchie). Nevertheless his impressive characterisation of Combo is somehow overshadowed by Thomas Turgoose first ever acting role. Although presented at a later stage in the movie as the anti hero, it is impossible not to feel for his profound facial expression and sympathise with his early age portrayal of innocence.

    Despite all round notable performances from the rest of the cast, I feel terribly let down by Jo Hartley's mediocre interpretation as Shaun's mother; however this can be considered a minor decay to an all round great piece of contemporary art.

    This is England crosses the boundary of the purely British audience oriented motion picture to a larger scale scenario where its intricacies are presented in manners which well enable the international audience to get a small picture of a bigger problem.

    In a world that tries to trade our eyes for feelings by diverting our attention to the big picture, such as United 93, it might be of some use to stop and stare at the small picture. This little, yet well behaved movie, might allow us to adapt our eyes to the dark and pay more attention to detail.

    By Jordi Llàtzer
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's been a long time in my celluloid watching life since a real appreciation of a film some three quarters of the way in has subsided to head shaking and disappointment by the closing credits.

    I can't add any more to the reviews already on here - plot development, narrative, humour, recreation of 80's England and acting (on the whole) are all top drawer.

    But what sort of ending was that ?? The scene in which Combo (superb performance by the actor by the way) finally succumbed to the demons and prejudice within was fantastic and would have made a worthy finale to the film. Stop it there. No context required. No need to wrap things up.

    But another 15 mins followed.

    Firstly I'm not quite sure what the archive clips from the Falklands were trying to achieve - Adding resonance to the story just told ?? by a representation of misguided nationalism ?? or a reflection of the jingoism of the time ?? I'm not sure. The music certainly didn't help - the soaring, emotive classical accompaniment was overly mawkish and just made me feel I was being manipulated into a war is wrong/thatcher was bad standpoint. The film was great no need to increase the scope or make sure we knew it's intentions.

    Why the need to let us know Milky was OK in the scene with Sean and his mum ? - surely it hits harder not knowing this.

    But the final scene was so grandiose. Here comes the classical music again and Sean rejects the life he was leading by symbolically throwing the flag into the sea. Terrible, overblown and - dare I say it - 100% Hollywood. It reminded me of the scenes from those 80's cop movies where the grizzled NY cop having cleared his name - or that of his dead buddy - and exposed the bad cops ends the film by casting his badge/commendation into the sea.

    So yet again the inability to end a film well and avoid MAKING IT REALLY CLEAR HOW YOU SHOULD FEEL really tarnishes the experience as a whole.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I watched this film last night with anticipation, but really wasn't very impressed.

    With the exception of 'Combo', I thought the acting was poor and the narrative was limited. It came across like a 'made for TV' drama.

    I felt that the film was very contrived. The whole set up of hammering in the context at the start (yes, we get that this is 80s Britain - you can stop now) was tiresome, and gave a very one-sided view of what life was like in 80s Britain - poverty, war juxtaposed with royalty, Margaret Thatcher, yet nothing in between? There were actually middle-classes who existed back then - just ordinary working people, with a decent wage and a mortgage. The Falklands clips also seemed to be added randomly towards the end, for 'dramatic effect', I presume.

    The sequence of events felt a tad disjointed, as the characters moved one one action to the next without us seeing how their mindset could've changed so quickly.

    The relationship between 'Shaun' and 'Smell' was toe-curling. I couldn't even look during the snogging scene. I find it very hard to believe that she would've been attracted to a boy who was not only so much younger, but also looked so much younger. I know there were only four years between them, but four years is nothing once you reach your twenties, yet it's a huge difference in your teens! In my experience, that kind of teen age difference only occurs when the girl is the younger one, since girls mature so much quicker, and are more on the wavelength of boys a few years older. Sorry, but I didn't buy it - an unnecessary plot point created for shock value.

    The ending was somewhat abrupt and, again, contrived. If the flag throwing incident was supposed to be iconic, then it fell somewhat short in my eyes.

    It bugs me that British films only concern themselves with either the upper classes or the poverty-stricken. Don't get me wrong, I love Trainspotting, and Four Weddings has its charms, but can't we Brits come up with anything different? Why are our films always so hung up on the class system? I was born in 1973, so wasn't much different in age to 'Shaun' would've been in 1983. I grew up in a single parent family on a fairly down-trodden council estate in a city in England. However, my childhood experiences were vastly different to those portrayed in the film - I don't even remember racism being an issue (although i'm not saying it didn't exist). 'This is England'? Not in my experience.

    The bottom line is that I felt this film lacked substance, and I was completely bored and unimpressed throughout.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This 80s set drama reinforces Shane Meadow's reputation as an actor's director and one that thank god, is actually interested enough in his indigenous culture not to take a cheque from a Hollywood studio and waste his talent making American genre movies. Danny Boyle take note. Paul Anderson, stay where you are.

    This is a considered, exceptionally well acted story centred on a 12 year olds adoption by a gang of skinheads in the months after his Father's death in the Falklands. Initially it's all harmless enough, smashing sinks and wasting time. They listen to good music and smoke dope – not a problem you may think, in fact I once worked for a man who essentially built a career on that. But things turn ugly when old gang member combo returns from prison, having had any vestige of racial tolerance buggered out of him. He's a proto-Nick Griffin, in the days before he opened an account with tie rack but with more visible tattoos, determined to fight the "war" against ethnic undesirables…and no, that doesn't means Geordies (I had to check that too). The boy is drawn in by Combo's pitch, particularly the part about wasted solders liberating sheep in the Falklands, which strikes a simplistic note and before you can say "wasted youth" trouble ensues.

    The period is vividly recreated, though Meadows can't resist having the greatest hits of the day playing on the radio as people walk down the street, and a cast who weren't even sperm and ovum in the real 1983, are superb and have a great career ahead of them, or rather would, were there an independent domestic industry to speak of. Mind you, Shane should be working for a while at least.

    What impresses are the finely rendered details. Mass recruitment to the National Front is portrayed in relatively benign terms – a cosseted meeting in a working men's club. There, then as now, a hatred of immigration and cultural diversity is rationalised as a rescue mission – hauling Englishness back from its diluted and fractious state to something bound to a fictitious idyll represented by the likes of Churchill (who opposed all emancipating reforms throughout the first three decades of the 20th century and pioneered the use of chemical weapons and labour camps), war time working class solidarity and that kind of male sack contents. Then, again as now, the ringleaders pass themselves off as respectable patriots, suited and business like, trotting out the familiar mantra of welcoming the hard working immigrant but rejecting the rest – ergo they're not racists at all. Obvious really! Having presented this pack of lies, Meadow's discredits it with equal verve. When combo storms into the hard working Pakistani shop owner's newsagent, threatens to kill him and steals his stock (because presumably working for it wasn't an option) there's little in the way of appreciation for the man's contribution to the economy. A simple "thank you for the annual 2 billion pound surplus in 2007 money you and your fellow immigrants contribute, subsidising benefit dependent ex-cons like myself" would have sufficed but no, its abuse a giant knife. As combo listens to Milk describe the simply pleasures of his family life – a scene that's like watching someone sit on a bomb you know is about to explode, his decision to try and batter him to death in a jealous rage is a tacit acknowledgement of what actually lies at the heart of the future BNP's membership - simple envy and bitter resentment coupled with an idiots view of history.

    When Meadow's explores the personal motivations for this hate his characters and the film as a whole have an air of authenticity, built on universally excellent and naturalistic performances. It's the attempt to tie the characters to the wider political and social context that strikes a false note.

    Meadows locates the mutation of the skinhead movement from anarchist to racist by showing us footage of the Falkland's war and Thatcher. Combos been in prison for three and half years and it isn't a coincidence that his captivity dates from Thatcher's accession to government – he's a symbolic globule of Thatcherite folly. Sending your armed forces to protect a hill and kill sheep Meadows suggests, proved a stark reminder of Britain's loss of status in the world and this, coupled with Maggie's systematic and ruthless destruction of the working class through mass employment and the atomising of society, which essentially ate like acid through traditional working class communities (which was always the point), was decisive in inflaming social tensions. This is a fair judgement of history but labouring the Falkland's as an inciting incident overstates its importance, when a more rigorous look at the domestic situation might have struck a stronger note. All of this suggests that while Meadow's is a vintage documenter of his own childhood experiences and has an gift for social realism, his credentials as a social historian are less secure.

    Mind you, this may be all a misreading. Perhaps Meadows is suggesting Roland Rat is responsible – the morning TV menace featuring in the opening archive footage, and who'd bet against it?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Young Shaun Fields is bullied at school and trudging home fed-up when he is beckoned over by a bunch of older boys hanging out in the underpass. Although they are skinheads, Shaun likes their leader Woody and likewise he wins them over with his attitude is bigger than his size and he becomes part of the gang – hanging out and having fun. This changes when Woody's friend Combo is released from prison, his militant views causes a split in the group – with Shaun staying wit Combo as Woody, Milky and others head off.

    It helps to be of a certain age to appreciate everything this film has to offer. For myself I barely fell into this group mainly because I grew up in Northern Ireland and it goes without saying that we had our own "issues" to deal with while England had theirs. However I have some point of reference with the news etc even if I was not even 10 at the point of this film. That said, even with my limited knowledge I still found the people and period within this film to be totally convincing. A colleague who encouraged me to see this, was in his teens in the Midlands at the time this film was set, did tell me that the film got it spot on in regards the people that he remembered and the culture at the time.

    This is the film's strength and has always been an attraction of Meadows' films that he manages to produce natural and convincing characters within a realistic world. This is important because the narrative relies you the audience being engaged by the characters as it is very much driven by them. Through them Meadows deals with issues such as male rage, intolerance and the importance of belonging to a gang (or group) and he does so in a powerful and engaging script. It is easy to say that Meadows achieved this by drawing from real life experiences but it still takes a great deal of skill to translate experiences to written words and then to actors. Like I said, it does really help to understand the society and mood at the time this was set but even without that it is good enough to get you into it without this knowledge ahead of time.

    The delivery of the characters falls to a strong cast who will mostly be unknown outside of the UK but who all turn in spot-on characters. Turgoose got the attention early on when this film came out and rightly so because he does delivery a strong performance that is a million miles from the cute and annoying performances of others his age in many other mainstream films. However for me the absolute standout performance was from Stephen Graham. Words and action give him a simple "racist thug" character but he has understood his character and the complexities of the rage within him looking for a channel. When he is in thug mode he is convincing and compelling but his best moments come where he lets you see something else momentarily. It is obvious to pick it but his best moment is his relaxed chat with Milky, you can see the "real" person but also see the anger spark in him before finding the easiest outlet for it – something simple to lash out at. It is an impressive moment in a roundly impressive performance. These two together dominate the film but that is to take nothing away from the roundly solid support work from Shim, McClure, Gilgun and others who are all convincing and play their parts perfectly. I rarely think to mention the supporting crew when reviewing a film but several things did stand out for me. Firstly those designing sets and costumes got it just right – there was really nothing that felt modern, from the clothes right through to the outdoor locations (the scattering of archive footage also helps). Secondly is the cinematography which is bleak and gritty, perfectly matching the mood of the time and of the script.

    Overall then a very impressive British film – no, a very impressive film, full stop. The places, period and characters are really well scripted by Meadows who in turn brings the best out of his cast with not a single performance really standing out as clunky or out of place. Excellent leads from Turgoose and Graham only make things better, while the film looks great by capturing the period in looks (costumes) and feel (cinematography).
  • The mood of this movie is pretty good and it captures the feel of the 80's well with some good performances.


    The script is run of the mill with the exception of a couple of comedic moments and comes off as being weird where I expect it was intended to be edgy. The characters are totally over dramatized and unbelievable and full of right wing clichés that the script writer probably saw watching a panorama documentary on the national front. The biggest problem is this movie has no real story. It ticks all the right "arty" boxes but nothing actually happens and at the end you are left wondering what the point was.

    Very disappointing
  • Warning: Spoilers
    At 12, and young-looking even for his age, Shaun Fields (Turgoose) looks hardly capable of breaking and entering a boiled egg. His loss of innocence is at the heart of Shane Meadows' most autobiographical work to date (notice how 'Shaun Fields' deliberately echoes 'Shane Meadows'), along with ever-relevant subjects like absent and surrogate fathers, Western imperialism and white working-class marginalisation, particularly in the post-industrial suburbs.

    Right on time, the film also addresses the flashpoint issue of the day; an incipient racism virtually legitimised under recent governments and in sections of the press, stoking anti-Muslim sentiment. This packs a lot into its 100 minutes, but never feels hectoring. "I've been picked on three times today, all because of my trousers," Shaun tells poodle-permed mum Cynthia, whose soldier husband died a year earlier in the Falklands. Other schoolyard taunts cut deeper: "How many people can you fit in the back of a Mini? Two in the front, two in the back - and your dad in the ashtray."

    Salvation comes in the form of fair-minded skinhead Woody and his apparently parentless gang of puppyish, moon-faced boys and preternaturally aged girls, all pinched faces and feathercuts. Little older than Shaun himself, burdened with the same juvenile insecurities, they're nonetheless better dressed in their immaculate Ben Shermans and cherry red Docs.

    Shaun signs up, receives his regulation uniform and haircut. Not that mum approves. "We've got problems," a wheedling Gadget tells her obsequiously. But at least he's found some friends. Life is now a fizzy sherbet rush of trashing empty houses on decrepit Nottingham estates and getting an education in skinhead music - an authentic mix of 2-Tone and rock-steady.

    Shaun also gets an education in girls via beanpole Smell. "You might look about four," drawls Smell, "but you kiss like a 40-year-old." As usual, Meadows gets great, moving performances from his young cast. When the older, damaged Combo (Graham) shows up, newly vomited from prison, he drives a nail into the group, exemplified in his loaded question for Milky (Andrew Shim), their sole black skinhead. "Do you consider yourself English or Jamaican?" Combo spells out his call to arms: "For 2,000 years this little island has been raped and pillaged by people who would want a piece of it. For what? Just so we could open the floodgates and say 'come in'? Now three-and-a-half million of us can't find jobs 'cos they're taking them all."

    Margaret Thatcher is also deeply unpopular with Combo for having marginalised the far right by whipping the immigration issue, and the union flag, from under them. Then there's her war in the Falklands, shipping fine upstanding white men to a "phoney war to kill a load of shepherds".

    Having convinced Shaun his father died in vain, Combo drags his splinter cell to NF branch meetings led by Frank Harper's Lenny. They harass the Asian locals and struggle with racist graffiti - "Hey, how many effs in 'Off?'" - until a brutal incident makes Shaun think again. Working on a characteristically modest budget, Meadows and crew have fashioned a fantastically authentic drama: from the recreation of the era's dingy landscapes; its youth cults (exerting a pull on suburbanites long after their metropolitan counterparts were morphing into Tacchini-clad casuals); that exhilarating soundtrack (Toots And The Maytals, Specials, UK Subs); and the tangled political climate set against a backdrop of mass unemployment, working class disenfranchisement and a phoney war. This is England, indeed.

    Courageously, the film also rescues the skinheads from all-encompassing neo-Nazi associations. The movement's origins lay in a shared celebration by white working-class Britons and the Rude Boys of Jamaican music, a multiculturalism made more potent and pronounced during post-punk.

    Though leaving one in no doubt about the stupidity and crassness of the far right (Combo's race-hate merchants give Smell porn mags for birthday presents) it also digs deeper, trying to find out what makes them tick. Make no mistake, despite its low-key approach (certainly, less hysterical than Meadows' true masterpiece, Dead Man's Shoes) This Is England is a deeply political film, but here renders the political personal, particularly when depicting the far-reaching consequences of war on the families left behind.

    There is also a second drama being played out here, one that audiences may not pick up on. As Meadows has revealed, in the film's backstory Combo (like Stephen Graham, the actor who plays him) is mixed-race. His explosive reaction to Milky's description of a large, loving Jamaican family isn't just one of jealousy, but borne from more complex emotions concerning his parentage. However, not knowing this takes nothing away from the film's power.

    The use of The Smiths' 'Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want' at the finale not only captures the film's melancholy yearning, but, historically, heralds the new wave of white working class indie culture, in which Morrissey's brand of wistful introspection would succeed the skinhead's sulphate-fuelled moonstomping; at least for a while. Good times for a change.

    In April 2007, just prior to the film's release, the British Board Of Film Classification hobbled the film with an 18 certificate (though Bristol City, Camden and Westminster councils later successfully whittled it down to a 15), decreeing that the movie's use of "vicious racial language... might give out the wrong message to an impressionable audience".

    Such a move didn't just preclude Turgoose from seeing his own film, but further prevented Meadows from screening it to 15-year-old schoolchildren, to "show the dangers of bullying, peer pressure and racism to young people". While it was the filmmakers' misfortune to have released their film at a time when policy is dictated by public perception, it was hoped that this vital piece of cinema would eventually find a proper, receptive audience, making its win for 'Best British Film' at the 2008 BAFTAs a richly deserved and very satisfying victory.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Congratulations to Shane Meadows for capturing the sights, sounds and smells of the 1980's. It was spellbinding to watch the audience reaction as the set up of the film had its share of laughs for the youthful abandonment and micky taking that made up being a teenager during these times. Switching gear, trouble arrives like a boot to the face, in the shape of Combo. Releasd from prison and seeped in nationalist rhetoric. I found the film made an important distinction between the clans of traditional and neo-nazi skinheads. A point that has been long overdue in film. Focusing on a northern seaside town the setting could be anywhere in the UK, such is the power of the mirror of gang life. a great soundtrack and poignant dialogue when reflecting on the various characters lot...good luck at the awards!

    Steve Goodman author "England belongs to me"
  • Shane Meadows is a great example of a British film maker who is talented but who fails to maximise that talent . Where as Danny Boyle is often criticised for failing to maintain the first half momentum Meadows is slightly different in that he can come up with a good premise which he then proceeds to demolish via his own hand . Where as DEAD MANS SHOES quickly stops being gritty and realistic and becomes fantastical and silly TIE suffers from quickly turning from a heart warming film in to a mouth piece for Meadows which defeats the object of the exercise .

    Make no mistake this is a truly heart warming film for the first half hour . Set in Grimsby in July 1983 tweleve year old Shaun is an outsider . He is an orphan whose father died in the Falklands conflict the previous year . He is the butt of jokes from school bullies and on his way home he is befriended by a group of non racist skinheads who invite him to tag along with them . Even the most cynical heart can't fail to be touched by this scenario which is helped greatly by all the cast , especially Thomas Turgoose as Shaun and Joe Gilgun as skin head leader Woody . Watching it a few short years after the film was released you can still understand why the critics loved it and heaped praise on the unknown cast and there's still plenty of time for Turgoose and Gilgun to become household names . If this is what they're capable of they're deserving of stardom

    Unfortunately when the audience are introduced to racist skinhead Combo the film starts to fall apart . There's nothing wrong with Stephen Graham's performance and will hopefully join Turgoose and Gilgun on the road to stardom but as a three dimensional character from 1983 he's sadly lacking . Meadows is on record as saying that he didn't agree with the Falklands war . I'm surprised he is able to remember since he was ten year old at the time and one can't help thinking that it's Meadows who is talking every time Combo opens his mouth " we went in to that war on a lie . it was for nothing " Hmmmm how does Combo arrive at this conclusion ? It's not like Mrs Thatcher addressed the houses of parliament saying that Argentina was days away from invading the Falkland Islands in a similar manner Blair did with Iraq . It was a war of aggression by Argentina who at the time were led by a fascistic junta . For people to claim " The Falklands Conflict was due to a lie " is very anachronistic not to mention untrue . By a bitter irony The Falklands Conflict is one of he very few wars where the extreme right and extreme left in Britain disagreed . The extreme right was for sending the task force the far left were against it . As Nick Cohen and Christopher Hitchens continually point out with glee Neanderthal Nazis and gormless do gooders are nearly always on the same side

    In fact one can't help wondering why on earth it is set in the Summer of 1983 . If Shaun had been orphaned in 2004 and the story took place in 2005 then you'd still have the exact same film . Perhaps this was Meadows intention but decided having a film set against the background of Iraq and Afghanistan because it might be too similar to DEAD MANS SHOWS . . Meadows wasn't a teenager in 1983 and it shows . Anachronims abound like Strawberry Switchblade on the radio and Blockbusters on TV and how could the Summer of 1983 not have Blue Monday by New Order being played at every opportunity ? If you're going to make a film set in a particular time then please let someone who was there direct it . Since Meadows has decided to bring up politics I'll rubbish him by asking what on earth was the point in showing footage of the miners strike which took place from March 1984- March 1985 ? If political events take place AFTER the timeline the scenario is set then please don't include them

    In conclusion TIE had all the potential to be one of the great feel good movies ever to have come out of Britain a sort of THE FULL MONTY meets LITTLE VOICE and the way the film quickly becomes something " gritty and realistic " is somewhat unforgivable . Some people think they've been misled in thinking this was going to be a Brit version of American HISTORY X and I can see their point and one can't help thinking how much more praise Meadows might have received if we'd never have met Combo and we'd had Shaun , Woody and co walking off in to the sunset friends forever
  • eddie_baggins12 October 2017
    A film of raw, unrelenting and passionate power, This is England remains underrated director Shane Meadows greatest singular achievement and one of Britain's all-time great feature length films.

    Spawning a collection of worthy mini-series follow ups in the years that followed its critically praised initial release, This is England not only deals with a politically charged time in the United Kingdom's Maggie Thatcher lead period of the 80's but examines the deep undercurrent of racism often present in otherwise civilised western countries all the while being a touching coming of age story of Thomas Turgoose's 12 year old Shaun.

    Meadows, who has also displayed a power as a filmmaker to make uncompromising films of almost documentary style realism, evidenced in other standout efforts like A Room for Romeo Brass and Dead Man's Shoes, directs This is England with both an unflinching eye and a compassionate hand as his believable and lovable characters experience life changing events all the while surrounded by a country that has reached a boiling point of tension and rage.

    Led by Turgoose's incredible well-constructed debut turn as the vulnerable Shaun who finds himself a part of a ragtag group of skinheads and rascals, This is England's cast that includes such recognisable faces as Joseph Gilgun as the lovable larrikin Woody, Vicky McClure as the deep thinking Lol, Andrew Shim as the Jamaican/British Milky and a young Jack O'Connell as feisty teenager Pukey, is one of the Britain's best ever assembled casts, the case of the perfect performers coming together as a whole that proved it was no lighting in a bottle occurrence when the large portion of the cast returned again for Meadow's award winning TV follow-ups.

    As good as both Meadows and his cast are in This is England, this film is owned completely by one of the modern eras most commanding and attention grabbing performances by Stephan Graham as the racist, tormented and charismatic Combo.

    A performer who has proved time and time again that his one of the best working in the business, yet a performer who has yet to receive his just rewards, Graham's Combo is a creation that's hard to describe, a fully inhabited incarnation that can only be achieved by actors at the very top of their game.

    When Combo makes his entrance into This is England's characters somewhat carefree lives at the 30 minute mark of the film, Meadows film marks its change in direction and tone and enters into an hour or so of cinematic brilliance as we're driven along by Graham's tour de force turn and a story that may seem on the surface to be simplistic, but ends up flooring us with a knockout punch that will linger days after initial viewing.

    Encapsulating the time and place of this period incredibly well, a landscape full of checkered shirts, suspenders, shaved heads, Doc Martins and a killer soundtrack, Meadows team-up with his performers, that is steered on its powerful course by Graham, create the world that makes This is England such a special and in many ways important film experience.

    Final Say –

    Far from an easy watch, This is England may not be everyone's cup of tea but Shane Meadow's gut-punch of a film remains to this day one of the most deceptively powerful and memorably casted films of the 21st century that includes an outstanding debut performance from Thomas Turgoose and a career best turn from Stephen Graham.

    5 Ben Sherman shirts out of 5
  • Rathko28 February 2008
    Growing up in a small northern town in the '80s, I found 'This is England' to carry incredible resonance. For people from other countries to question the authenticity of the film is laughable. Take it from somebody who was there – this is how it was. I remember skinheads kicking off in pub car parks because they knew the police were too busy dealing with striking miners to respond to any complaints. The entire production looks so authentic that at times it's as though you're watching a documentary filmed in 1983. The actors imbue characters that could easily become stereotypes with a depth that makes even the near-sociopathic Combo a sympathetic and tragic victim of his own emotional retardation. Several performances are award worthy and 'This is England' contains more of the real England, the England of my childhood, in just five minutes than all the middle-class fantasies of Richard Curtis combined.
  • Why is this movie getting so much praise? It's just another coming of age movie framed by the director's dubious knowledge of a youth cult. It's no different than 'Suburbia' or 'SLC Punk' or I don't know... It's also very pretentious because the back drop is the Falklands war, trying to give the scenario some gravity.

    But seriously it's no better than a made for TV movie. Its one, single, unique factor is that it portrays skinheads in their original identity - a bunch of fun loving, ganja smoking, reggae listening kids who dressed in those funny Erkle pants and red suspenders - then things get ugly.

    The events in this movie move along with no real purpose other than to move through a script and throw some heavy scenes in the viewer's face. And what's worse is that the facts are also off. The racist skinheads of 1983 were not just nationalists trying to get Pakistani immigrants out of their country. They were full blown neo-Nazis, in other words the interaction between Combo and Milky, never would happen or at least not in the order the film insists. It's complete rubbish.

    Furthermore the romance between the kid and the older, goth/glam chick is really weird and creepy. It makes no sense! It's like 'The Tin Drum' only it attempts to be real! It's really gross! In total, I didn't like it. I felt nearly every single moment of this movie was embarrassing and silly. The Falklands war imagery was pointless. And constantly reminding us what decade the movie was set in was annoying - hey another 'Maggie is a c***!' reference, woo!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    is everyone smoking crack??? i wasted a whole night of my life waiting for something to happen during this film and while some of the little kids quotes were admittedly quite funny they were the only good thing about it!!! over all i felt that the acting was terrible.... the storyline was terrible.... and most of it was completely unrealistic!! i want to but a 'spoiler' in this but there was no plot twist or any important elements to put!!! very very poor! I thought that the idea of a 16 year old girl was was probably 6" going out with a twelve year old was amusing sorry...laughable! and her saying to him..."do you want to suck my tits" was great comedy value...problem was i was laughing at how crap it was! and what kind of mother in her right mind would let her son hang around with aload of "skinheads"??? he comes in two hours late and his mum says.."what have you done to your hair??" her next words were probably..."do you want a brew?"
  • I saw This Is England 10 min. ago, and I still have tears in my eyes.

    I haven't since such a touching movie since "Napola". Through the whole movie I didn't do anything but watching the screen. Normally you maybe talk to a friend, or go out to get a snack. But this one, it was amazing..

    It was really amazing how the violence in the movie was made. Normally you can watch a lot of violence in movies, but in this one, I could feel every violent action on my own body.

    It also scarred the S''' out of me. Because this is not just a movie. This is a movie that show reality! If you get the chance, WATCH IT!
  • I bought this film with great hopes for it, several of my mates recommended it, however, it was absolutely terrible. The writing was bad, the acting was worse, and even the date it was set in didn't make sense! I didn't develop any attachment to the characters and thought the entire thing was a shambles. DO NOT WATCH! You have been warned. 2 great examples of the poor quality of the film;a scene where Shane and his mum are looking at a picture of his dad and both comment its their favourite picture of him, in the picture , you cant even see his face! As well as this, during the movie a girl who must have been about 10 years older than him comes on to him! It just comes across twisted and made the film seem even less real. Sucky film, don't buy, don't rent, don't watch.
  • memeplexity5 April 2007
    After I watched this film, I sat for a few minutes listening to the music on the credit role and then wrote this email to my brother:

    Alright man,

    I have just watched a film that got me really thinking. Its called "this is england". It is based in the early 1980's when the Falklands war was on and I realised how much influence it has had in my life, without ever knowing where the stuff came from. When I think of you and me and the battle we have been through as youngsters torn between sets of ideas, you know, having our most important first years in england and then swapping to Spain and assimilating the changes and adaptation to different ideas and then finally, weighing things up and creating our own worlds within us. We don't belong to a single set of ideas, we shift all the time. The thing is, when watching that film, I can feel how deeply the "english" theme is ingrained, its like a scar, Man those first years are so crucially vital for memes to set up shop.

    Its funny because when I cut all my hair off I felt things inside me but i didn't know what they were. It was only momentary. I remember when mum used to get both our heads shaved all the time. I will bring the film over, its definitely for the archives.
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