This Is England is a 2006 film written and directed by Shane Meadows that takes place in 1983 in a poor suburb of an unspecified English town. The protagonist of the film is 12-year-old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) who recently lost his father in the Falklands (or Malvinas) War and who lives with his mother (Jo Hartley). Teased continuously by his schoolmates, he takes refuge first in his friendship with Woody (Joe Gilgun), and then with the much more dangerous one with Combo (Stephen Graham), just released from prison and a fervent supporter of the British National Front, the neo-Nazi British party.
This is England is incredibly powerful. All the characters are built to perfection and bring to life the setting that Meadows has clearly reconstructed based on his childhood. Everything is well-made. Ludovico Einaudi’s soundtrack is excellent, and there are also many pop songs including Tainted Love by Soft Cell and Warhead by U.K. Subs. The looks of the teenagers and the twenty-year-old youngsters are also impressive, they were all clearly divided between various urban tribes, including the skinheads led by Combo.
But the director also did a great job directing the actors and actresses who in many cases were novice (for instance, this is the film debut of Turgoose). At times it feels like watching a documentary, as the characters seem real and move and speak so naturally! The clips of footage on the war, Thatcher, the royal family, and the National Front rallies are tremendously effective in this sense.
And above all, it’s the story that is absolutely realistic, with Shaun desperate for a father figure who easily falls into the trap of skinheads who offer him an identity (complete with Dr. Martens, white shirts, and shaved hair). He also finds a family which somehow feels more complete than the one he has left after the death of his father.
But I don’t want to reveal too much about this film, it surely deserves to be watched. It’s a wonderful story of growth, an accurate snapshot of a horrible reality of a European country that shouldn’t be forgotten, and it contains many important messages on the stupidity of racism and violence. Raw, direct, This Is England is an independent film in which I struggle to find faults, especially now that recent political events in Great Britain (Brexit among others) have shown that extremist tendencies (always towards the right, for some reason) are alive and kicking. Ciao!