Shane Meadows' gritty portrait of teenage urban life in Thatcher's Britain of the early '80s. With schools breaking up for the summer, 12-year-old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) makes his way home after a fight. Living at home with his mum in a rundown coastal town, his dad killed in the Falklands, Shaun spends a lot of time on his own and dreads the long summer break. Expecting the worst when he runs into a group of skinheads, Shaun's surprised when they turn out to be friendly and adopt him as one of their own. Suddenly the summer feels a whole lot better as Shaun discovers girls, parties, braces and an identity. But the good times are threatened with the appearance of Combo (Stephen Graham), an older, in-your-face racist, just released from prison, who leads the group down a darker, violent road.
If theres a more exciting and diverse a film director currently working in the UK than Shane Meadows, then its reason to truly celebrate. In fact, the sheer quality of Meadows own output is enough reason to be enthused, not least his finest film to date, This Is England
Set in the early 1980s, This Is England initially focuses on 12-year old Shaun (played by Thomas Turgoose, a real find), as he befriends a group of skinheads. Shaun bears the scars of the 80s, with his dad lost in the Falklands War, and his relationship with his new friends develops carefully across the first half of the film.
But its in the second half where This Is England soars. Its not easy watching, as is the usual drill with Meadows best films, From a stunning tirade about the state of Britain, to moments of real unease and tension, its a terrific piece of cinema, and one destined to enjoy a healthy life on DVD. Its also one that should, if theres any justice, provide a major career springboard for its primarily unknown cast, and one that should get Meadows far more of the recognition he absolutely deserves.
Bluntly, not only is This Is England the best British film of the year. Its a standout contender for the best film of 2007 full stop. Its utterly superb, and itd be remiss not to see it. --Jon Foster