This is an archived post from Wishes on Eyelashes, a previous incarnation of this site.
To spell out exactly just what poignant brilliance Shane Meadows has achieved with this incredible portrayal of the dirty side of Northern life in the early Eighties would take longer than the forgettable decade itself.
Unlike most of its predecessors, This Is England embraces the usual kitchen sink drama that these British indie-films so often revert to, but turns it on its head in the most memorable of ways. The narrative centres around Shaun, who at 12 years old in 1983 finds himself in one of the most impressionable times to be in the North. Images of Thatcher’s rants, Charles and Diana’s wedding and the Falklands war littering the opening sequence of the film, reminding us that it wasn’t the best of times.
Indeed, we see young Shaun (the outstanding Thomas Turgoose) struggling to find suitable influences following the death of his father in The Falklands, ending up falling into the hands of a gang of Skins. What starts as a bit of snappy Ben Sherman dressing, shaved heads and Madness in the background soon develops into something a lot more sinister.
The performances throughout are exemplary, from the comforting and welcoming leader of the skins, Woody (Joseph Gilgun) to his recently-freed elder brother Combo (Stephen Graham) who provides Shaun with the kind of father figure he could do without.
The setting and storyline may be bleak, but be under no doubt – This Is England is British cinema at darkest and very best.