Twelve-year-old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is an isolated lad growing up in a grim coastal town, whose father has died fighting in the Falklands war. Over the course of the summer holiday he finds fresh male role models when those in the local skinhead scene take him in. With his new friends Shaun discovers a world of parties, first love and the joys of Dr Marten boots. It's at one of these parties that he meets Combo (Stephen Graham), an older, racist skinhead who has recently got out of prison. As Combo’s gang harass the local ethnic minorities, the course is set for a rite of passage that will hurl Shaun from innocence to experience.
It is the summer of 1983. Young Shaun has just lost his father in the Falklands war and is taken in by a group of Skinheads who offer the lonely boy comfort and a sense of belonging. Over the course of the summer, Shaun's life and view of the world dramatically changes… never to be the same again.
Written and directed by the talented Shane Meadows, This is England is a stunning film. Its authenticity and rawness stem from the script's autobiographical nature.
With the backdrop of the bloody Falkland's disaster, the hometown dilemma of unemployment and poverty and the rise of racial intolerance, Meadows' story of a young boy caught up in such confusion is beautifully realised. The film is shot on 16mm, giving it a gritty, raw look that effectively reflects their world of boredom, Doc Martins, violence and graffiti and because the story was operating on so many levels - the characters, situations and outcomes are all so gratifying.
I love being surprised as a filmgoer and the lead performance of young Thomas Turgoose flawed me. He has never acted before and was found pretty much off the street. Meadows often prefers to work with non-professional actors and after viewing this film and all the riveting performances, I think he is onto something. Meadows effortlessly blends the personal with the political - I was moved by the young boy longing for his father and confronted by the hatred of the times.
This little British gem is such a powerful film, I'm giving it 4.5 stars.