Run with the crowd, stand alone, you decide.
Running Time: 101 minutes
US Certificate: Unrated UK Certificate: 18
Country: United Kingdom
It’s 1982 and life is tough for young Shaun (Turgoose) – he’s being bullied at school and his Dad has recently been killed in the Falklands War. However, when he falls in with a group of skinheads, he begins to feel accepted and rediscovers the fun side of life. That is until Combo (Graham), the ultimate bad boy skinhead returns on the scene after being in prison. He polarises the group and they split up, with one group becoming the usual racist ilk of hooligans and the others getting their heads down still trying to entertain themselves in suburbia. Shaun is forced to choose between them.
This is England is a wonderful look back at a time where mostly all teenagers in England were either New Romantics or skinheads and the pretty dark mood of the Thatcher era and the awful fashion sense are captured perfectly. Shane Meadow’s was part of the scene and the authenticity shows through. The subject is approached subtly and never with romanticism as we see a troubled boy try and fit in before feeling the full force of fanaticism. This is England is both tender and hard-hittingly brutal and the climax is amazingly powerful. As far as explorations of racism and hooliganism go, This is England is up there with the likes of American History X, and should ingrain itself in British film history.
The performances and chemistry from the characters is excellent and each of the group of friends play their part with understated charm and/or menace. The two stand out performers are young Thomas Turgoose – who allegedly persuaded Meadows to pay him to audition – and Stephen Graham, perfectly portraying Combo as one scary motherflipper.
It's Got: Wonderful performances by a young cast, no punches pulled, a truly terrifying romance between a girl called Smell and a boy a couple of years her junior
It Needs: To be seen to get a real view of the Eighties (maybe seen as part of a double screening with Wall Street).
DVD Extras Making Of, Shane Meadows interview, illuminating commentaries involving nearly everyone involved, pretty poor deleted scenes, two text-only essays about the film's themes - very good value for money. DVD Extras Rating: 9/10
Alternatives:American History X, Dead Man's Shoes, The Believer
After a few tentative hits Shane Meadows reached his peak with this tender yet harrowing movie about skinheads in 1980s England. Quite possibly the best British film of the Noughties. Sorry, I’ve probably made Harry Potter cry now. Shut up and cut your hair, you’re not a Beatle.