Monday, 3 September 2007

This Is England (2006) - ickleReview (DVD)

Tremendous British film set in the north-east of England in 1983, directed by Shane Meadows and based on his own childhood experiences. It will change the way you think about skinheads. Shaun (Thomas Turgoose)'s dad was killed in the Falklands War. He is bullied at school. Woody (Joseph Gilgun) and his gang of skinheads welcome him into their gang, but when Combo (Stephen Graham) is released from prison, the loyalites of the gang are split between Woody's compassionate, tolerant camaraderie and Combo's racist, National Front-inspired direct action against the local Asian immigrant population. Combo is opposed to the Falklands War yet wants to protect England from further immigration because it is supposedly taking jobs away from English-born people. Curiously, he does tolerate second generation immigrants so long as they say they are English.

My own prejudices didn't (until now) recognize that not all skinheads are violent racist. Woody's gang are merely a bunch of outsiders who welcome Shaun into their society, realizing he is friendless and in need of some role models. Even the bad skinhead, Combo, is sympathetically portrayed. His flaws and prejudices are accounted for, if not condoned, but even he has the humanity to do the right thing and take a friend to hospital after he has beaten him up in a jealous rage.

A fascinating, funny, and moving insight into the skinhead code of honour. When they have a problem, they are open and talk about it. They deserve more respect and understanding than they get. A minority of them are violent thugs with racist views, associating themselves with the National Front and giving all skinheads a bad name by their prominence.

Nugget: a superbly written and acted film. The 80s period detail is totally convincing. It really gives a sense of what life was like for skinheads living in the north-east of England in 1983. There is an outstanding performance by Turgoose, whose mother, Sharon, died in 2006, and to whom the film is dedicated. A very special film. Make the effort to see it.

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