"Somers Town" is being considered by many as a mini-project for director Shane Meadows before his next big feature. This said, it is remarkable just how satisfying a viewing experience this movie is. Even though it only runs for a paltry 68 minutes (!), it does not feel by the end that we have been short-changed. In actual fact, the length seems pretty near perfect.
Meadows is a superb and prolific film director, and it's great to see so many of his trademarks occuring here - namely, plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, superb improvisation from talented actors, sympathetic characters, visually arresting shots of English council estates and an elegant folky soundtrack to underpin the imagery. All the ingredients are here.
The plot of Somers Town concerns a young lad, Thommo, who has entered London as a runaway from his native Nottingham. He is promptly mugged, wanders aimlessly for a while, then eventually befriends a local Polish lad Marek. The film touchingly deals with their friendship and a shared obsession with a beautiful French waitress. Okay, it's not really a plot as such. The film is more like a series of incidents, many of which are "choke-on-your-tea" hilarious and many of which are genuinely moving. I won't give too much away, but keep an eye out for a supremely dodgy Arsenal shirt, a ten pound note in a pair of underpants and a painfully humorous masturbation sequence!
So where does this film stand in Meadows' cannon? Well, I would say it's almost up there with his best work. Certainly, it is his sweetest and most endearingly whimsical movie to date. With the focus on childhood friendship, the story reminds me slightly of Meadows' earlier masterpiece "A Room For Romeo Brass". Visually, it recalls "Twenty Four Seven", his confident debut. It is also refreshingly free of the foul language that runs through his other features...so, finally...a Meadows movie you can watch with your kids!
In conclusion, I would say that "Somers Town" is not the best movie Meadows has ever produced, but it is undoubtedly the warmest. In fact, it is as warm and welcoming as a buttered crumpet served with a steaming mug of tea.
8/10. A quality production. Roll on Meadows' next movie!