Monday, November 19, 2007

This Is England: Grade A

This is England (2006)
Thomas Turgoose, Stephan Graham, Joe Gilgun. Writer-Director Shane Meadows.

A ten year old boy (Turgoose) is “adopted” by a gang of skinheads in a working class town in England. There he finds friendship and since his father died in the war, what seems to him like adult guidance (Graham). He shaves his head and becomes the gang’s skinhead mascot. The social unrest caused by the 1980’s Falklands war is interpreted by the skinheads to mean that patriotism requires racism, so they terrorize a Pakistani storekeeper, and worse. The movie shows us that these gangsters are not inherently evil, just horribly uneducated, unsocialized, often mentally deficient, and consequently, socially outcast and doomed to act stupidly. Such people exist in any society, and stupid or not, they have needs for love, esteem and belongingness like anyone else. It makes sense for them to create a subculture to survive psychologically. The technique of seeing the skinhead culture through the eyes of a child humanizes these outcasts without making them especially sympathetic. I hate to see any child actor (it is a form of child abuse), but I admit Turgoose gives an amazing performance here. The rest of the actors are also very convincing. The costumes and sets are perfect, and the period music is quite good. Editing and directing sag for about 20 minutes in the middle, but mostly are tight. I had a little trouble with the accents. Affecting, important, and memorable.

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