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A shocking and poignant British film,
This review is from: This Is England (2 Disc Edition) [DVD] (DVD)
Shaun (Turgoose) is being bullied at school and when Woody (Gilgun) and his gang invite him into their skinhead gang Shaun learns the difficult truth about Thatcher's England.
Of all the brilliant British films to have been released over the last twenty years it is fair to say none have had provoked such a resonating truth to them as this Shane Meadows picture which is based on many of his personal experiences.
This is England is set in the early 1980's a time of the Falkland's war that sets up the theme. Shaun is a bullied 11 year old and is living in depression following his dad's death in that war. After a particularly harsh outburst from a fellow pupil about his dad in a car you will feel instant disdain for the bully and sympathy for Shaun.
Thomas Turgoose is quite a revelation in this picture. Starring here when he was just 14 he brings about the classic epitome of the British stereotype. The swearing, the smoking, the girls, the reckless actions and the desire to be wanted by others are all characteristics of today's modern youth and yet the incredible teenager battles this stereotype though a determined hard nut performance. The underlining sadness of his dad's death is the defining point of his character's true nature, epitomized during Combo's speech and given a fine respectful gesture in the final stages.
Stephen Graham is the quarter stone of this picture. Combo is a shocking idealist, a man revelling in frustration at the way England has been overrun by immigrants, the way Margaret Thatcher has capitalized on the citizens of England and how decent Englishmen are homeless and jobless. And though this film is set in 1983 and we are now 26 years on, these issues are still valid. Our system to bring in anyone who asks keeps the unemployment rising and personally, I am open minded to the fact different cultures and people can teach us new things and add to our economy, there is no denying that there comes a point when England won't be England anymore, and the opinions and story of this picture make this a true realization of how this country has formed over the past decades.
Aside from the political and National agendas on display we have concepts of friendship and family. The initiation of Shaun into the group is heart warming friendship and the character of Woody is a symbol of goodness.
The too slow first half is somewhat forgotten as we dive into the emotional core of the script, exploring the racism and nationalisation and with a fine hard change of character mind this brings about the most shocking finale imaginable.
An obvious comparison to this 2006 release would be American History X which showcased racism in American society and how Edward Norton's outlook changed during prison. But the change here is through a heart stopping act of losing control and has a crushing ending, this is England has it all.