This Is England (2007)
By: David Michael Brown on January 10, 2008  |  Comments  |  Bookmark and Share
Madman Entertainment (Australia). Region 4, PAL. 1.78:1 (16:9 enhanced). English DD 5.1, English DD 2.0. English Subtitles. 98 minutes
The Movie
Director: Shane Meadows
Starring: Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley
Writer: Shane Meadows
Country: UK
Following in the footsteps of Romper Stomper, La Haine and American History X comes the latest film to portray the lives of that bette noire of Eighties society, the skinhead. This is England is Shane Meadows semi autobiographical tale of Eighties Britain, a time when Great Britain was anything but great. Margeret Thatcher, the miner's strike, the Falklands War, Youth Training Schemes, mass unemployment and concrete shopping precincts; the youth of the nation has plenty to be angry about and as is often the case during such hard times, they lashed out at what they couldn't understand, the immigrant communities.

Set in 1983 in the Midlands town of Grimsby, the film tells the story of a young 12 year-old boy called Shaun (a stunning debut performance from Thomas Turgoose), a scruffy misfit grieving the death of his father, whose life is changed during his school holidays when he befriends a gang of skinheads. This is actually Shane Meadows trump card. The general image of the skinhead is a short-haired thug with knee high Dr. Martin boots, a Fred Perry shirt and a penchant for violence. Often taking National Pride to its ugly extreme, the racist skinhead gave short hair a bad name. The young gang of skins who take Shaun under their wing, however, are a charming bunch. The group's leader Woody in particular, played by Joseph Gilgun, is a witty, friendly lad who just likes the fashion and solidarity of the movement. For once a director doesn't take the obvious route. That's not to say that things don't take a turn for the worse when one of the gang's previous members, Combo, finishes doing time and comes back into the fold preaching some less than savoury racist rhetoric. This is when the film takes a truly terrifying turn. The gang is torn in two and our young hero follows Combo into a nightmare of National Front meetings and horrific confrontations that change this youngsters view of the world forever. The scenes when Combo shows his true colours will have you at the edge of your seats.

The film is beautifully played by the entire ensemble; especially the aforementioned Thomas Turgoose as Shaun. For a young actor with no experience, Turgoose shows amazing range. From robbing his local corner shop to going on his first date with an older girl, he is the films central focus and the strength and soul of This is England.

This is England is Shane Meadows best film; that's fighting talk when you look at his previous work like Dead Man's Shoes, 24:7 and Once Upon a time in the Midlands. This film is a picture perfect description of life in the early Eighties in England. Roland Rat, Margaret Thatcher, Rubik's Cubes, the Royal Wedding, aerobics, Keith Chegwin; Meadows has filled his film with 1980s minutiae that gives this often grim tale an authenticity that is only heightened by the terrific soundtrack. All these elements help to bring a much-needed line of humour to the film which separates This is England from its predecessors and helps the film to be immensely entertaining, despite its harrowing storyline.
The film looks fabulous considering the drab, grey atmosphere of Northern England that Meadows has perfectly captured. The use of archive footage lends the film a grainy realism and the transfer perfectly portrays this grim aesthetic.
Loud and clear, the thumping soundtrack full of throbbing baselines is the audio counterpoint to the excellent transfer. The Eighties soundtrack of reggae, punk and ska sounds fantastic.
Extra Features
The double disc set features some excellent extras that really compliment the viewing experience. Firstly Meadows is joined by producer Mark Herbert and actor Thomas Turgoose for a fabulous running commentary that really helps to place the film in its historical context as well as providing some enthralling anecdotes on the making of the film.

There is also a nice selection of deleted scenes including an alternative ending. The behind the scenes footage includes auditions & rehearsals and footage of Shaun getting his head shaved. In one nice moment young Turgoose is shown doubting he can say some of the racist rhetoric his character spits out during a raid on a corner shop.

Interviews with the producer, production designer and the hair and make up departments add more in-depth information, the chat with the hair department in particular is very interesting as we see the actors reacting to their new, very dated, hair dos. Finally we get an interview from the stage of the London National Film Theatre with Shane Meadows in which he discusses discovering young Thomas Turgoose and filming Made in England.
The Verdict
The best British film about disenchanted youth since Tim Roth's Trevor smashed his way through Alan Clarke's Made in Britain; be prepared to be entertained, disturbed and shocked. One of the film's of 2007 and a must own on DVD.
Movie Score
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