Film >This Is England
Set against the backdrop of the financially and emotionally drained England of the early ’80s, This Is England is a tale of sweet, humane, well-rounded and entirely believable characters. The main protagonist is 12-year-old Shaun, whose dad has died in the Falklands and who is something of an outcast at school. Finding solace in a group of new friends, Shaun blossoms and looks for an outlet for his natural preteen angst. Oh, yeah – those friends? They’re skinheads. Director Shane Meadows does a marvelous job at not only painting in the far corners of what life was like in the Thatcher era, he miraculously has his characters move along the same trajectory that the skinhead “movement” did during the time. What started out as a smooth-shaving, reggae-loving extension of the mods splintered into nationalists, then outright racist hooligans. Meadows lets Shaun glide unaware into this more virulent era, all while presenting even the hard-hearted “Paki-basher” as a complex human being worthy of investigation, if not sympathy. The wide swaths of gray that the director uses in defining the movie’s moral center are a big part of why it succeeds; by simply telling the story as it was likely to have happened – rather than pausing to make judgments along the way – Meadows makes This Is England less a cautionary tale than a simply riveting one.