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Twelve-year-old Shaun hooks up with a bunch of fun-loving skinheads during the long hot summer of 1983, until the spectre of racism drives the group apart. Shane Meadows' most personal film to date
Shaun Fields (Thomas Turgoose) is a 12 year-old growing up in the East Midlands, whose soldier father died a year earlier in the Falklands and is the victim of bullying at school. Salvation comes in the form of kindly, fair-minded skinhead Woody (Joe Gilgun) and his apparently parentless gang of puppyish, moon-faced boys and preternaturally aged girls, all pinched faces and feathercuts. Little older than Shaun himself, burdened with the same juvenile insecurities, they're nonetheless better dressed in their immaculate Ben Shermans and cherry red Docs. Shaun signs up, receives his regulation uniform and haircut and joins the skinhead movement. When the older, damaged Combo (Stephen Graham) shows up, newly vomited from prison, he drives a nail into the group, exemplified in his loaded question for Milky (Andrew Shim), their sole black skinhead. "Do you consider yourself English or Jamaican?"
This Is England was written and directed by Shane Meadows (A Room For Romeo Brass, Dead Man's Shoes) and produced by Mark Herbert (Four Lions, Submarine).
Ben Walters, TimeOut
"Drawing on the director’s own experiences, the film offers assured insights into the pleasures and wages of tribalism, and the ease with which both the urge to belong and individual insecurities and resentments can be grievously spun into political capital. The St George cross initially seen on a poster of the England squad on Shaun’s bedroom wall becomes a coddling blanket of self-justification, then a badge of self-loathing."
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"The movie is taut, tense, relentless. It shows why Shaun feels he needs to belong to a gang, what he gets out of it and how it goes wrong."
Dan Jolin, Empire
"Newcomer Thomas Turgoose has moulded the character of Shaun through as much his own experience as Meadows’. Pinch-faced and awkward but brimming with prepubescent swagger, he’s the film’s shining core and we’ll be amazed if you see a better, more naturalistic child performance this year... Deeply impressive, as both a recreation of ’80s working-class England and an intimate tale of one childhood’s brutal end."
This Is England premiered at TIFF in September 2006 and was released in the UK on April 27 2007. The film won a BAFTA for Best British Film and also received a Best Original Screenplay nomination, and it was nominated for seven BIFAs, winning Best British Independent Film and Most Promising Newcomer for Thomas Turgoose. It is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray now.
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