This Is England (NR)

Drama 101 July 25, 2007
By Nathan Lee
Drawing on memories of a specific place and time -- England in the early ´80s—writer-director Shane Meadows nails the look and feel of a shabby provincial town, its restless youth, and the tribes they form. Though fewer than 300 British lives were lost in the Falklands War, the whole world is taken from a boy named Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), whose father died in battle. Our pudgy little Shaun of the dead comes to life on contact with Woody (Joe Gilgun), the charismatic leader of a local skinhead crew whose leadership comes under attack by Combo (Stephen Graham), a skinhead of a different stripe — the kind that twists into a swastika. Meadows re-creates skinhead subculture with equal care for its accoutrements — shaved heads, ska records — and origins as a youth movement based on working-class solidarity rather than race hatred. This Is England goes on to examine the psychology of fascism from two angles, at two stages of its development. The story of Shaun is a cautionary tale about the susceptibility of needy young men to the rigors of far-right ideology. Combo is a case study in the inevitable result: social and psychic violence. Meadows undermines this theme by reducing it all to daddy issues. Facile pop psychology is the real tragedy here, a double disappointment given the film’s smart take on pop culture.
Shane Meadows Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure, Joseph Gilgun, Rosamund Hanson, Kieran Hardcastle, Frank Harper, George Newton Shane Meadows Peter Carlton IFC First Take

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