Friday, February 22, 2008

This is England

There was some consternation following the BAFTAs when Shane Meadows's film pipped Atonement to the Best British Film mask, only to be nowwhere to be seen when the Ian McEwan adaptation was voted Best Film overall. (A travesty!)

Now this was in part down to the fact that the two gongs had different electorates, but it could also be said that This is England belongs to a class of films that require a degree of British cultural inculcation for full appreciation.

I'd also say that direct experience of the early eighties under Thatcher and the Falklands War in particular would also be useful, because there is a strong note of nostalgia in this narrative. It made me think back to my own early teens, when the charts were packed with two tone tunes and England's urban blacks were collectively known as 'West Indians'. And what of that bizarre war in Las Malvinas where British paras with fags in their mouths were filmed tipping dead Argentines off stretchers into the next available slot on a line of fallen comrades? The wars that our squaddies are fighting today must be just as raw, yet somehow we are denied access to a comparable class of images that could last a lifetime.

Meadows uses the semi-autobiographical character of young Shaun, inducted into a skinhead gang in seaside Grimsby, to tell a tale that is at once lightly funny and tragic. Two tone indeed!

Joe Gilgun's soft-natured, untroubled Woody deserves a special mention, but his antithesis, Stephen Graham's volatile Combo is also fascinating to watch.

The soundtrack album is also fab.

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