Tribeca Movie Review: This Is England

The following movie was screened at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival.

This Is England

This Is England
Spotlight, Narrative
2006, U.K.
Dir: Shane Meadows

An unlikely band of brothers comes to grips with the crisis ravaging their beloved homeland in This Is England. The film centers on a lonely outsider that goes by the name of Shaun. Shaun gets picked on constantly at school and has no friends to play with. One day, he runs into a group of skinheads. But not to worry, these are friendly skinheads. The head of the bunch, Woody, takes him under his wing and protects him with unexpected authority.

The film takes place during the Margaret Thatcher days of a conservative England going through several peaks and valleys, with more valleys than not. The economy was in a slump. The Falklands War was raging on; it was seen as a totally unnecessary conflict. The youth was jaded and confused, turning to rebellion to counter the shackles their society was placing on them. The Punk Revolution was still in full force, and a swelling tide of radical nationalism was washing over the country at an alarming rate.

With a washed out background and a bleak environment, the boys unite and form their own special bond. Shaun is transformed into a skinhead; he has found a family to call his own. The film has a natural tone to it, despite the numerous amounts of musical montages to try and capture the feel of the times. This natural tone works for the most part, until the evil skinhead Combo enters the picture. The characters were slightly unbelievable throughout the film, but when Combo arrives, there is a total lack of credibility from each of the characters in the film.

From the beginning, its pretty hard to swallow that a group of skinheads would be a friendly group of teens, taking in a kid because they felt sorry for him, acting like an after school program for him, and then going off and frolicking around their destitute neighborhood like happy schoolchildren. But again, the story was able to maintain a natural tone to it that made one overlook such deficiencies. However, with the arrival of Combo, the racist neo-Nazi who comes back to town, fresh from the penitentiary, with plans of his own to convert the boys into his disciples, this natural tone is shattered. Here the story takes a turn for the worse, as even more unnecessary music montages pop up just to fill up some time, making the film drag on more than it needed to.

The characters make choices that do not make any sense whatsoever and enter improbable situations. The dialogue digresses into a barrage of cockney vulgarity, but it feels totally tactless and insincere. The filmmakers try to give some dimension to Combo, played by Stephen Graham from Snatch (2000) and Gangs of New York (2002), but it is to no avail. There is no point in understanding the inner turmoil of such a retched and foul character, especially if it adds nothing to the film in its entirety.

Sounded like a good idea but was poorly executed.

/Film Rating: 3 out of 10

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