Well worth the forty-minute drive down the 405 freeway and having to endure the sight of 40-year-old men dressed in costume for a midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, This Is England is a compelling, heartfelt and comical coming-of-age tale of a young boy getting to grips with the loss of his father.
Based on the experiences of British writer and director Shane Meadows (A Room for Romeo Brass, Dead Man’s Shoes), This Is England is set in the summer of 1983. It’s a troublesome time for Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a young boy at odds with the death of his father in the Falklands War and ridiculed by his peers at school everyday. One afternoon on his way home, Shaun is befriended by a group of skinheads. The group’s leader, Woody (Joseph Gilgun), takes a liking to Shaun and inducts him into his extended family complete with a generic pair of Dr. Martens and red suspenders to boot. As Shaun embraces his new friends and lifestyle, he is soon tainted and corrupted by the violent and charismatic Combo (Stephen Graham) — an old friend of Woody’s fresh out of prison. Combo’s xenophobic views captivate the young members of the group, including Shaun. Under Combo’s guidance, Shaun gets pulled into a world of cruelty and hate that ends in a night that will change him forever.
Meadows has pieced together a deeply moving contemporary film that showcases his savvy and well-written script, as well as Thomas Turgoose, who gives a stellar performance. Turgoose even manages to swoon over Shaun’s love interest, Soft Cell groupie look-a-like, Smell (Rosamund Hanson), who stands at least a foot taller than Turgoose. Not bad for a 13-year-old.