Film Review: This is England

Thursday 24 September 2015 by

This is England, Film, Channel 4, Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham

With the return of our favourite bunch of screw-ups, it’s high time I review one of the best British films there is. Now don’t get me wrong, This is England is not a fun film – it’s not one to enjoy, but it’s certainly one to appreciate.

It tells the story of twelve-year-old Shaun as he finds himself mixed up with a gang of skinheads in the summer of 1983. But racial tensions are running high, and it ends with dramatic violence that tears them apart.

What I like about this film the most, is the fact that it is so culturally astute. It is viciously accurate in its portrayal of 80s England, and visceral in its attack on racism and violence. The performances are sharp, with that improvised feeling you only really get from a fantastic script and even better actors.

A young Thomas Turgoose as Shaun is the linchpin to the whole story, rivalling the likes of Stephen Graham as the showstopper. This is gritty, unforgiving and unrelenting. You adore each of the characters, but you hate them equally. You recognise a part of your teenage years in the house parties and relationships, and sometimes wish you didn’t.

There is a reason this film won awards: it is honest. It doesn’t shy around the issues it comes to address, and it points to the elephant in the room with the wide-open eyes of a grieving twelve year old. There is nothing that greets you with quite the same hit; there is the authenticity, and the intensity, that makes this an unforgettable watch. It will linger with you. And it will also mean that you have to revisit it over and over again, and then watch all of the other TV programme spin offs. These people will be in your lives for a good while yet.

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