This one wasn’t actually requested by Ray. He just told me it was good, and I took his recommendation as an excuse to include it here.
This Is England tells the story of a budding skinhead in England in 1983. The sociological context helps place the film in its time, but I don’t think it’s necessary to know all about skinheads to get something from the film. It may sound like a sociology tract, but in fact it’s a fine, semi-autobiographical drama that feels “real”. Thomas Turgoose, 14 at the time and making his acting debut, is rightfully praised for his multi-faceted portrait of a 12-year-old whose father died in the Falklands War, and discovers a second family amongst the skinheads. His pals are a fairly amiable lot, and they take on the youngster as something of a mascot at first. You understand why the boy would want to join this gang, although it’s less clear why the gang exists in the first place (if Meadows made this more explicit, it would be a better sociology tract, but probably a worse movie).
Things change in an explosive fashion when an old gang member played by Stephen Graham (Al Capone in Boardwalk Empire) gets released from prison. His turn towards nationalist racism and violence is frightening, and Graham really digs into the role … he is pretty frightening, himself. Graham also manages to make a romantic moment (to him, anyway) seem legit. It’s a terrific performance that takes the film up a notch just when it needs it.
There isn’t much new here. It’s a fairly standard coming-of-age story. But the milieu is handled with honesty, and the acting by Turgoose and Graham is impressive. This Is England isn’t always easy to watch, but it’s uncomfortable in a good way. 8/10.