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3.5 out of 5 stars
Somers Town [DVD] (2008)
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The publicity surrounding this film on cinema release was pretty impressive due to the fact that Shane Meadows's previous films have been pretty gritty, however it did deliver the goods. Shot in black and white, it's the story of Tomo, a teenager running away from a dodgy home life in Nottingham who journeys down to Somers Town (near St Pancras, London) and meets Polish immigrant Marek who lives with his construction worker father in a nearby estate. They form a bond after Tomo is mugged and both become enamoured with a Parisian waitress who works in a cafe nearby.

I found the characterisation to be particularly adept and Meadows weaves a number of amusing situations throughout the screenplay, one highlight of which was when Tomo steals a bag of clothing from a laundrette and ends up looking like 'a female golfer!' There is also an amusing moment when the boys' dodgy dealer/trader extracts a tenner from deep within his underpants. Many of the locations of the film were familiar to my husband, who grew up in the area and some of his family still reside in the area. I found the running time at 68 minutes to be perfect but the fantasy type ending kind of ruined an impressive film as it really hammered the point home that Meadows was hired to produce a film to publicise the new St Pancras Eurostar terminal.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Shane Meadow's 2008 film Somers Town is a slight, but increasingly infectious little gem of a film. I recall that when I originally saw the film at the cinema I was not overly impressed, thinking that it did not compare in stature with the likes of his earlier classics such as A Room For Romeo Brass, Dead Man's Shoes and This Is England. However, on repeat viewings of the film on DVD, its appeal has steadily increased for me and I would now put it in the same category (quality and scale-wise) with such other minor (recent) gems as Pawel Pawlikowki's Last Resort, Eran Creevey's Shifty and Tom Harper's The Scouting Book For Boys.

Somers Town showcases the acting talents of Shane Meadows' regular Thomas Turgoose playing the (nearly) street-wise, 16-year old Tomo, who has made his way down from 'the North' (Nottingham, in fact), escaping from his broken family and trying to make his way in the Smoke (i.e. London) - in particular, in the Somers Town area near Kings Cross. Whilst Turgoose was undoubtedly impressive in This Is England, here he has an even more substantial role, being on screen virtually for the entire 68 minutes of this short film, and he more than lives up to what is required of the role, putting in an outstanding performance in his impressive portrayal of a mix of up front bravado (including some hilarious sequences) and underlying vulnerability. Director Meadows, together with his regular script-writer Paul Fraser, have constructed a beautifully poignant (and, by turns, funny and tragic) tale as Tomo meets up with lonely Polish immigrant Marek (an impressive film debut performance by Piotr Jagiello) and the two embark on a series of small-scale adventures. Acting-wise, Meadows completes his casting by including another of his regular collaborators, the marvellous Perry Benson, who delivers another hilarious turn as small-scale market trader, wit and wide boy Graham, Ireneusz Czop, who is impressive playing Makek's father Mariusz, and Elisa Lasowski as Maria, the girl with whom both Tomo and Marek become infatuated.

In Somers Town, Meadows' simple, realist approach to film-making is perfectly complemented by his chosen soundtrack, which comprises a beautifully atmospheric set of compositions written by Gavin Clark, with whom Meadows worked on his earlier films Twenty Four Seven and Small Time. The film is also impressively shot in black and white by cinematographer Natasha Braier, who has managed to strike a skilful balance between the run-down look of the London housing estates and the settings for some of the lighter, more romantic passages of the film. All these elements have been skilfully brought together by Meadows with the effect of transforming Somers Town from being a very insubstantial affair into something magical, and certainly worth its place in the oeuvre of one of the finest film directors working in the UK currently.

The DVD also includes a number of interesting extras including interviews with Messrs. Meadows, Turgoose, Jagiello and Benson on the making of Somers Town, and (most impressively) an insightful and educational Master Class at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York, in which Meadows and Fraser describe in some detail their approach to film-making.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 9 September 2012
I'm a fan of Shane Meadows' films and the first one that I ever saw was 'Somers Town' (2008). Despite being nowhere near as gritty and hard hitting as his other work, 'Somers Town' is a charming British comedy.

Filmed mostly in black and white, the movie is an insight into an unlikely friendship between two young teenagers called Tomo (played by 'This Is England' star Thomas Turgoose) and Marek (played by Piotr Jagiello). At first, it seems that both lads couldn't be more different from each other. Tomo is streetwise and has recently been released from social care, running away to London. There he meets Marek, a keen photographer who is quiet and sensitive. As things transpire, the lads find that they have more in common than they could have ever imagined. Both have had difficult home lives and appear to have no other friends. They have also fallen for the same girl who works in the cafe.

'Somers Town' was a simple story, but delightful and funny. Despite being very different from other Shane Meadows movies, I found it a refreshing change.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This is the first time I have sat through a Shane Meadow's film and been anything other than totally impressed. I am not sure if it was just because I wasn't in the right frame of mine when I sat down to it (I was very tired and unable to concentrate hard) or if it's just an unengaging film, but I really found unable to connect with the characters or care about the story.

It's a tale of Thommo (Thomas Turgoose), running away from life in Nottingham to see the big city. Once there he strikes a `friendship' with Marek, son of a Polish construction worker in Somers Town, near King's Cross/St Pancras. They have a series of unlikely adventures based around their shared passion for Maria, a French girl who is a waitressing at a local cafe, and their involvement with a local dodgy wheeler dealer geezer.

The film is made with Meadow's usual gritty realism and eye for the detail of everyday life, from the images of the young lad on the train making polite everyday conversation, to the council estates in which the characters live. This is juxtaposed with flashes of humour that sometimes tickle, but in the main do little more than raise a weak smile. The basic flaw, I felt, was the character of Thommo. After having spent an hour in his company I really couldn't stand him, or the way he bullies and abuses Marek. Marek was also irritating in that he never even tried to stand up for himself. Theirs is a very abusive relationship, and I felt both characters were people I have varying levels of distaste for. Especially the quite horrible Thommo. Because of this I just could not get involved in their story.

That's not to say I think the actors are bad, I think they did a great job of portraying their characters. And occasionally there was a moment that was either sweet or funny that I could relate to or was amused by. But overall it was a film that left me pretty cold and bored.

The ending is a bit at odds with the rest of the film. It seems a bit fairy tale, and almost a commercial for the Eurostar. I like the oversaturated film technique though, it took me right back the home films of the early eighties.

All in all, not a film I engaged with very much, so only 2 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 11 August 2011
Sommers Town is a tale of a friendship that develops between two lads one from the midlands Tomo and one from Poland Marek in London. Its a simple film shot in black and white but is both funny and entertaining. A total must see and its nice to see a good British film that isn't about the Essex murders(I think 20 has been made and another 12 is in production), gangsters, hoodies and of course those darn period pieces. Buy and enjoy!
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One of the very first scenes in Somers Town film sees the brilliant Thomas Turgoose as young runaway Tomo sat on a train having a friendly conversation with a stranger. They say nothing profound, nothing of any great significance - it's just the sort of smalltalk you'd see any day on any train. And that scene is typical of a Shane Meadows film, it brings us a non glossy view of life, it presents reality by showing us the nuances of human interaction.

After arriving in London and meeting a hostile response, Tomo becomes pretty hostile himself and comes across as pretty unlikable - the sort of boy you don't want your own kids hanging about with. But he isn't to be dismissed, it's only by spending time with him that we can get to see the boy under the façade and although Somers Town is only just over an hour long, that's what it manages to do.

After striking up a friendship with Polish immigrant Marek, the two realise that they are each other's only friend and it's apparent that they are Both outsiders in a big city. Marek is stifled in the flat he shares with his dad, his only real outlet being his photography and his 'love' of French, cafe waitress Maria. As the friendship between the two develops, there's a sense that two boys who have been forced to grow up too early are able to be boys again for the first time in a while.

In a nutshell: A heart-warming film but not in a slushy sentimental way. A snapshot of the life of a young man on the run to London brings us an insight into the lives of a small cast, each of which are candidates to be pre-judged in a negative way. But by the end of this film you have a better understanding of their depth and they all feel like real people who could exist in any city. Once again Shane Meadows confirms to us that he is the new master of realism even if the final scenes did feel a bit fairy-story and out of kilter with the rest of the film.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
"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!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 14 June 2010
I've seen this on TV, I don't own the DVD. I rate it as a nice piece of original film making and suitable as an episode in (for example) a series of films based around street London. Maybe a set of Shane Meadows films. The film has an annoying yet cute soundtrack. All worthwhile, but not quite worth a trip to the cinema and marginal as an individual DVD.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
"Somerstown" was originally intended to be a short film to promote Eurostar. Two days into the ten day shoot, however, director Shane Meadows began to think that he might have a feature on his hands. Meadows describes this film, on the concise but absorbing extras, as his sort of ode to sixties new wave French cinema, and that isn't too far from the truth. It's definitely Meadows most fun film, admittedly "fun" in Meadows World means "gritty black and white social drama", but unlike the rest of his body of work "Somerstown" is positively playful in its overall vibe. It's brilliant that the film exists because it manages to sit perfectly alongside Meadows other films and actually manages to put them into better context...it's almost as if a ray of sun has managed to get through Shane's dusty, Nottingham council house window and brighten things up. If you love his films you will absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt love this, if you don't, or haven't yet dived in this makes the perfect entry point, a proper masterpiece.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 2009
Tomo (Turgoose) moves from Nottingham to London in the hope of a new start and befriends Marek (Jagiello), a Polish immigrant who has a crush on Maria (Lasowski)

After viewing Shane Meadows impressive drama This is England this 2008 drama sounded very appealing and I am glad to say the same level of drama and sophistication is as present as it was in 2006 and with the same level of issues and entertainment present, this makes engaging viewing, if not as passionate as his previous release.

One of the main reasons Somers Town isn't as strong as the Bafta winner is Thomas Turgoose's protagonist Tomo. Turgoose was exceptionally strong in This is England, bringing that level of vulnerability to a bullied school boy and yet expressing his enjoyment through his actions. Here we see him as an over eager selfish teenager looking to start afresh with new friends. When looking at modern day stereotypes in British cinema you may recall the gangster figure in Kidulthood or the dreamer in My Summer of Love. Here we see almost a mix between the two. Tomo isn't afraid to say what he feels and do what he wants. His language is appalling, his expectancy of everyone comes too easily and he is so irritating the stop button on your remote control will be exceptionally tempting. Turgoose does well to portray the stereotype but all things considered the character is something else in modern society. A dramatic instalment is Tomo but the character development and the way it is handled in the latter part is appreciative and almost heart warming, with a few twists thrown in.

Piotr Jagiello is very impressive as Polish immigrant Marek. Quiet, unassertive and desperate we feel his situation with his father and can take comfort from his desperation for a normal life. Elisa Lasowski is included briefly but makes a startling impression in this dramatic tale of friendship.

Tackling ideologies of friendship and family this film delivers in a way only British cinema can, by taking the issue from its very core and spinning it on a realistic portrayal. Having the film set in black and white makes these concepts feel that extra dramatic and therefore more powerful.

Meadows' direction is tackled very delicately with some artistic soft shots thrown in to appreciate the story in context, including a wonderful montage in the closing stages. The relaxing score further engrosses viewers into the sentimental story.

Whereas this isn't as strong as Meadows' other film, Somers Town takes comfort from a passionate collection of protagonists and thrives on the drama of real life.

8/10
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