Title – This is England (2006)
Director – Shane Meadows (Dead Man’s Shoes)
Cast – Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Joseph Gilgun, Vicky McClure, Andrew Shim, Jo Hartley, Jack O’Connell
Plot – In England 1983 young boy Shaun (Turgoose) finds himself under the wing of Woody (Gilgun), a leader of a group of ragtag locals but the group finds itself divided upon the arrival of Woody’s old friend Combo (Graham), a proud skinhead who’s fresh out of jail.
“There’s a reason people try to pigeonhole us like this. And that is because of one word, gentlemen. Fear”
Review by Eddie on 13/10/2017
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 loveable 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 loveable 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
This is England currently sits at #16 on Eddie’s Top 30 Films of All Time List