This is England. And This is England’s Sequel.
CORRECTION! 04.24.10 @ 9:42 am
Radiation Level: damp and foggy
Listening to: Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want by Morrissey
Shane Meadows, writer and director of This Is England, is picking up the film’s characters four years later. (And four years since the film was released in 2006) BBC’s channel 4 Channel 4, not the BBC, will show the four-part drama This Is England ’86 in the fall. But when will it get to BBC America? I hope really, really soon! It’s apparently unlikely it will get to BBC America because it is a separate broadcasting company than Channel 4, but perhaps another cable network will pick it up. If not, we’ll have to watch it on DVD.
I found this indie gem of a film scrolling through the Netflix database. Though I don’t think Netflix is very good at accuarately picking movies for me, I heart Netflix’s Database. It’s much more user friendly than IMDB and you can search by genre without getting everyone and their mother’s short film in Portuguese that goes back to the year 1911. I was studying “coming of age” films as research for the Fallout Girl screenplay and This is England blew me away.
Set in 1982, 12-year-old Shawn gets picked on at school after his father is killed fighting in the Falkland Islands war. Shawn is befriended by an older group of kids who fancy themselves skinheads, but really they’re just into the “skinhead style”: Doc Martins, Ben Sherman shirts with suspenders for the boys and vintage dresses and Boy George hair styles for the gals. Then one of their “gang” members called Combo returns home from jail. Combo is volatile, acidic and finds his raison d’etre in racism and English nationalistic pride. But the headstrong Combo is also in a lot of personal pain and in him, Shawn sees a comrade. It is also because of Combo, Shawn grow up.
This story has so many juicy layers, each one working to make the other stronger. On the surface, it’s about a boy who must let go of his dead father and become his own man. But it’s also about bullying, violence, and aggression from the micro level with schoolboys to the macro level with a full-scale war between England and Argentina. It’s also a commentary on Thatcherism and the cold war.
The characters and the acting are so real in this film, I felt like I was watching a documentary at times. Yet, the characters glow with color and life against the grey, English sky. Shawn aches in that budding testosterone-infused-confused way, while his mother tries her best to do right by him. Knowing she must let her son feel the pain of losing his dad but wanting to protect him from it at the same time.
There are moments when melodrama could take over, but the characters are so grounded, you stay right there with them. Even when you want to look away.
I originally streamed this film on my computer through Netflix, but then I caught the last half of it last night on the Sundance Channel.
I can’t wait to see the delicious four-part sequel. Shane Meadows and the BBC – you rock!