A genuine cult-classic
Buzz and hyperbole.
Two things that will always be used to promote the next major Hollywood release in your local cinema but as with everything, the proof is in the final product. In the case of Shane Meadows, the British director has consistently made some of the finest films of the last decade and one of his very best is showing on Film4 tonight at 11.10pm.
For over two decades, the Staffordshire-born director has examined the problems, issues and criminality that exists within the underbelly of British society.
If you haven’t seen the likes of A Room for Romeo Brass or Dead Man’s Shoes then check them out, but Meadows’ most critically-acclaimed film is airing this week and it’s superb.
Set in 1983, This is England tells the story of a lonely twelve -year-old boy named Shaun that’s growing up in a grim coastal town in northern England.
Aside from being raised in an environment that was suffering from the social and economic problems that existed in Thatcher’s England, Shaun also has to deal with the fact that his father died while fighting in the Falklands War.
Without a strong parental figure to protect him from the local bullies, Shaun ultimately befriends a group of skinheads and finds an outlet for his frustrations, anger and resentment.
With all of this pent-up rage and bitterness, this world of counsel mayhem and violence gives Shaun exactly what he needs – a sense of identity and brotherhood.
After being accepted as a member of their group, he then meets Combo, an older, racist and extremely dangerous skinhead that adopts Shaun as his protege.
We can all see where Shaun’s future is heading, but can he turn his life around before its too late?
Ok, this all sounds pretty heavy but there are also some wonderful moments of nostalgia and comedy in This is England. The soundtrack is superb but it’s the performances that really stand out, especially Stephen Graham as Combo.
After watching Graham on screen, you’ll instantly draw comparisons with the likes of Russell Crowe in Romper Stomper, Ed Norton in American History X and Eric Bana in Chopper.
In their review, The New York Times hailed Meadows’ drama as “A modest, near-flawless gem, This Is England is a humbly, if insistently political, autobiographical homage to a lost world of youth,” while The Times felt that it’s a perfect reflection of Britain during the early ’80s. “Few directors tap their damaged past as brilliantly as Meadows. This is England is by far his most personal and powerful testimony,” they said.
At the time of its release, This is England was rightfully hailed as the best British film of the year and it has since gone down as a genuine cult-classic.
86% on Metacritic, 93% on Rotten Tomatoes, a host of awards and an excellent series of TV spin-offs to boot.
Catch it on Film4 tonight at 11.10pm. Trust us, you won’t regret it.