Movie Review – This is England


‘This is England’ is set smack bang in the middle of Thatcher’s Britain, circa 1983. The Falkland War is in full swing and there are 3.5 million unemployed and disillusioned Brits.

Shaun, brilliantly portrayed by 14 year-old debutante Thomas Turgoose, is a lonely misfit, bullied at school about the death of his father in the war. He falls in with a rough-looking but likeable group of skinheads, who provide him with a sense of identity and friendship.

The skinheads, led by Woody (Joseph Gilgun) are fairly harmless; their short haircuts, Ben Sherman shirts and Doc Marten boots making them appear more sinister than they really are. The group introduces Shaun to girls, parties and dope, and life is fine until the unexpected appearance of hard-core nationalist Combo (Stephen Graham), just out after a three year spell in jail.

The dynamics of the group change rapidly, with Combo espousing racist National Front propaganda and driving a wedge between himself and the more moderate and likeable Woody.

Combo’s short fuse is barely suppressed, with an undercurrent of tension following him through every scene – think Once Were Warriors’ Jake the Muss at his malevolent worst.

Inevitably, Combo’s emotions reach breaking point, with tragic and violent consequences. Shaun is a shocked observer, and is forced to reassess his friendships and view of the world.

The film is based largely on the youthful experiences of writer/director Shane Meadows, who does a fabulous job of capturing the mood and emotions of the time.

My only quibble was the difference in age between Shaun and the gang, which made some of the plot lines slightly unbelievable.

In all an engrossing and highly enjoyable file.

4 stars from me.

4.5 stars and some tears from Wakes.


5 Responses to Movie Review – This is England

  1. Cliff Burns says:

    This looks like my sort of film, gritty and real. Do the film-makers take a good, healthy swing at Thatcherite England? I shall add this to my “Watch List” though where I live (on the prairies of Canada) likely means I’ll have to wait for the DVD release. Thanks for the tip,

  2. clarkebruce says:

    Cliff, there are plenty of real clips and soundbites of Thatcher interspersed throughout the movie, and also a lot of real (and very unglamourous) footage of the Falklands.

    I would really recommend the movie, especially if you have an interest in that era. I was living in London from 1986-88 so many of the cultural references were familiar.

    The other thing I forget to mention in my review was the soundtrack, which is first rate.

    Let me know when you get hold of a DVD and tell me what you think.


  3. Skinful says:

    Good to see you are starting movies reviews but you are falling into the same trap as others. What about the real useful information like the amount of female flesh revealed, sex scenes and nudity and quality blood, guts and violence.

  4. roaf says:

    This film is great. The only problem I have with it is the title! Not the greatest advertisement for the English tourist board, is it? Anybody in a foreign country who’s planning a trip to the UK might see “This Is England” in the video shop and think. “Ooh, I’ll rent this, because I was wondering what England was like,” and then say after watching it, “no bloody way am I going there!”

  5. clarkebruce says:

    Happens all the time with Crocodile Dundee and Australia!

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