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This is England


Year: 2006 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 18 Cert – Not suitable for under 18s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from This is England

Director: Shane Meadows

Starring: Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley

It’s the summer of 1983, and 12 year old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is left wandering aimlessly, not belonging to any social group, and bullied for wearing second-hand flares. This is until a chance meeting with Woody (Joseph Gilgun) and his band of generally friendly skinheads, transforms Shaun’s life.

The motley crew are not inclined to violent behaviour, being more concerned with the acquisition of Doc Martins, shaven heads and a sense of identity. Shaun is consequently empowered by his clothing and new friends, but the introduction of a violently racist element splits the group. Combo, played by Stephen Graham (Snatch, Gangs of New York) possesses a nationalistic attitude, proud of the flag of England. The flag becomes a symbol central to the narrative development and progression of Shaun’s character in his understanding of his place within the country that sent his father to his death. In the aftermath of The Falkland’s War, Shaun is left deprived of a patriarchal figure, a void which may be filled by either the charismatic Woody or the ‘patriotic’ Combo- the choice is Shaun’s.

From the introductory montage of tabloid nostalgia, accompanied by a vintage Ska track by Toots and the Maytals, This Is England is a retrospective look at the British working-class in the early eighties. Mass unemployment is rife, leading to increasing societal tensions, whilst social depravity is emphasised through the weekend activities of Woody’s posse, as they destroy disused and abandoned buildings.

This is England is Shane Meadows’ most mature film. Complexities regarding masculinity, violence, race and social identity within depression are addressed sensitively, whilst the film may be compared to the socially aware cinema of Alan Clarke (Scum, Made in Britain) in the representation of confused racist figures. The film has also been interpreted as a state-of-the-nation parable. It may not have been intended, but the parallels between The Falklands and Iraq, and heightened xenophobia in the wake of terrorism (news footage of the storming of the Iranian Embassy is depicted) are clear for all to see. The sentiment in the graffiti, ‘Maggie is a twat’, also suggests a further similarity in public feeling towards the early 80’s and recent New Labour politics. This is England truly is essential viewing, and cannot be missed.

James Cotton

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Screenings of this film:

2007/2008 Autumn Term (35mm)
2007/2008 Autumn Term (35mm)