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This is England

a film by Shane Meadows

Mainstream British cinema, at least in this day and age, can be grouped into two definitive camps. The one is a cutsey-pie attempt at adult humour, such as The Ful Monty, Saving Grace or Calendar Girls and the other is an in-your-face bully-wannabe gang with the likes of Guy Ritchie and all his pals. Either way you go, you end up down. Indeed, the cinema which once boasted Carol Reed and Tony Richardson and Joseph Losey and even Czech ex-pat Karel Reisz as its vanguard, now has fallen to the lows of Ritchie and a rather laughable state of affairs. Sure, we get the occasional Ken Loach production and even Danny Boyle ain't all that bad, but eegads, what a crest-fallen cinema to behold.

All that said, things could very well be looking up, for betwixt the Lock, Stock Snatches and Two Smoking Barrels is a small gut-level cinema building its base and growing its muscles. Andrea Arnold's Red Road is a recent example and so is Shane Meadows This is England. Hah, you thought I'd never get to the point didj'ya? Anyway, Meadows film, set in 1983, is about a twelve year old hooligan-in-waiting who has just lost his father in war, and the older kids who take him under their collective wings, transforming him into a budding adult skinhead. Now, by skinhead, I - and Meadows - am talking about the true original idea of skinhead, formulated by blacks and whites alike to fight the establishment and powers-that-be. Unfortunately for this movement it was warped into the white power hate group that it still is today.

In Meadows film we see this happen as interlopers try to coax young Shaun, played with a terse giddiness by Thomas Turgoose, into their Nationalist way of thinking. Perhaps a bit on the sentimental side and never quite surprising its audience (though a make-out session between Shaun and the much older object of his affection does surprise a bit at its intensity) This is England may indeed take a rather naive look at England's skinhead problems, but with such passion given forth by each and every cast memeber, and it's probable curtain call ode to Fellini, the cons are certainly outweighed by the pros. [08/08/07]

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