In This Is England, writer/director Shane Meadows brings July 1983 to
vivid life through the character of 12-year-old Shaun. More remarkable, Meadows
avoids the clichés of the alienated youth genre while never sacrificing the
particulars of the early Thatcher years, just after the conclusion of the
Falklands War. Having taught in Manchester,
England on a
year-long Fulbright exchange at about this time, I felt a strong sense of dejÃƒ¡
vu, so perfectly does This Is England
express the explosive mood, the barely suppressed anger, and the distasteful
emotions of National Front xenophobia.
And yet, by burrowing into the
characters, Meadows refuses the easy path of sensationalizing actions. They're
never justified, but Meadows understands the situation and personalities--he
was a skinhead himself in the 80s in a place very like this unexciting
northwestern coastal town. The authenticity is palpable and noteworthy.
As the film
begins, Shaun bristles at the teasing he takes from older classmates. He's a
hair trigger, set off by what we immediately understand as unrelenting
taunting. When a skinhead befriends Shaun and makes him one of the older
(teenage) gang, Shaun signs on. Nicely, his mother is no shrew but a
supportive, loving person who realizes she can't give Shaun what he lacks-male
role models. Her husband/Shaun's father died in the Falklands War; she and
Shaun articulate how much he's missed. And Shaun identifies with his new
friends who run riot in a couple scenes. It gets much more distressing when a
racist returns from jail. I had students who behaved and dressed in very
similar ways in working class Manchester.
So it's refreshing to see heart-breaking situations not sugar coated, not
simplified while it's painful to watch the dysfunctional behavior by
frustrated, disenfranchised youngsters. And all don't succumb to hateful
behavior though important conflicts and terrifying confrontations ensue. These
are individuals who think and choose.
by all are electrifying and convincing. The music that so momentously defined
the time and tone saturates the soundtrack, commenting appropriately in many
scenes. This Is England is engaging,
informative, and illuminating of a subculture too often dismissed and
demonized.At Landmark's Tivoli
Theatre through August 16th.
KDHX is now curating a Saturday brunch series at the Stage with live music from local musicians and delicious, locally-sourced food and drinks from the Magnolia Café.
Brunch at the Stage takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m....
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