A great movie that examines punk music, youth culture and wanting to belong from the eyes a Director who really lived through it.
I wish this movie would have had some Oi Bands in it like Last Resort and Combat 84.
This is England is a gritty, real tale that looks at growing up in England, getting into Punk Rock and Skinhead music, all through the eyes of young Shaun. Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is a 12 year-old boy who sadly lost his father in the Falklands war of the 1980s. Being picked on at school for how he dresses, he eventually falls in with a Skinhead gang that serves as a surrogate family. Finally belonging to something and being treated like an equal (even though these people have a good many years on him), things change a bit when Combo (Stephen Graham) gets out prison and wants to hang out with his old mates. The big problem is this group is non-racist and Combo isn't. The groups eventually split up with Combo speaking to Shaun in a way that makes him think this is who his late father would want him to be with. Things slowly go bad with Combo leading assaults on Pakistani immigrants and other people. Combo tells Shaun that he isn't racist, he's just pro-England but one fateful night the truth comes out and Shaun realizes the real, dark nature of people like Combo.
All in all, This is England gets a lot right about the scene it is portraying. Having come from the punk and hardcore scenes of Orange County, I found a lot about this film to be relatable and real.
This is England is one of the best films of 2007.
An Interview with Writer/Director Shane Meadows
Sadly this thing is too short. Meadows sits back and talks about how he hadn't ever really thought about making a film about this time period. He talks about being very much like the main character of this film, and how he wanted to be in a gang so that nobody would mess with him. He also goes on to say that maybe the punks saw "No Future" in England, but being part of a gang gave them power as a collective whole. As I have stated, this insightful piece only suffers because it's too short.
On this track is Writer/Director Shane Meadows, Producer Mark Herbert and Thomas Turgoose. They begin by joking that they're waking up their vocal chords and then they proceed to sing along with some of the songs in the film. Overall, the mood on this track is one of fun. Meadows talks about shooting in chronological order and the reason why there isn't any Oi music in the film. Apparently, doing that could have associated this movie too much with the racial elements of this film's story, but sadly, if you're a fan of that music it is something that is glaringly missing.
The Making of This is England
Two Darrell Buxton essays have been put on this release. They are "Skinhead Culture: Cropped, Braced & Booted" as well as "The Falklands: A Pathetic War." Unfortunately, these aren't printable but rather you read them on screen. I skimmed over "Skinhead Culture: Cropped, Braced & Booted," but I am looking forward to taking both of these essays down on a portable player that I can read more easily.
Widescreen Version. Presented to preserve the Aspect Ratio of its original theatrical exhibition. Enhanced for widescreen TVs. This movie looked kind of weird. I don't know exactly what it was shot on or even how it was shot for that matter, but the images looked weirdly pixilated in a lot of the early portions of this film. I didn't notice too many amazing things about the set design though I do think that Meadows bleak, on screen canvas was very much trying to recall A Clockwork Orange.
Dolby Digital. Language: English 5.1. Subtitled in English and Spanish. The audio on this release was good. I sadly had to watch it with subtitles just because I like to make sure I am not missing anything. This is England is a film that I had been waiting to see for some time. I really was expecting it to contain music by recognizable Oi bands, but even without that this film clearly makes its point.
Anybody into punk, Oi or skinheads has got to love this cover which features the cast and Shaun in front, decked out in all his Skinhead glory. The back cover gives us another shot of Shaun and the crew, a description of what this movie is about, a Special Features listing, a cast list and technical specs.
I think what I love the most about this movie is that it does differentiate between racist and non-racist skinheads. I don't know that I ever would call myself a skinhead, but I have listened to a lot of the music and much of it I enjoy. I currently am bald but that has more to do with being 34 than it does with having any allegiance to the skinhead movement. The thing is, being Jewish it would be very hard for me to a racist skin, I would think. I am sure there are groups I could have problems with but I don't. What I have always liked about Oi, punk and hardcore music is the passion with which it's played. There really is a message behind what the people are talking about. It's often quite intelligent it just so happens that it comes in a very abrasive form. I guess that's what happens when you get tired of saying something politely and nobody listens to you?
One of the strongest things about This is England is that it never becomes a movie that renounces itself. I never got the impression that Shaun was no longer a skinhead, but I never got the impression that he ever was 100% one either. At it's core, this more looks at the need to belong at any cost.
This Is England was released September 12, 2006.