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Blu-ray Review

DVD cover

This is England


Starring: Thomas Turgoose, Joseph Gilgun, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure and Stephen Graham
Optimum Home Entertainment
RRP: £24.99
Certificate: 18
Available 15 September 2008

Eleven year old Shaun is a troubled child living in the north of England in the eighties. Having lost his father in the Falklands War his pain and anger lead him to be befriended by a local skinhead group where he starts to feel like he belongs. But the skinhead community has a dark underbelly of violence which finally drives him away…

This is England (2006 - 1 hr, 42 min) was written and directed by Shane Meadows (A Room for Romeo Brass, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands), himself a former skinhead, which gives the film an air of harrowing authenticity which just blows you away. On its original release much was made of its mostly autobiographical subject matter. This is not an easy film to watch as it includes scenes of underage sex and violence. The film won a BAFTA as well as a further seven awards and fourteen nominations.

Though this is not how the film starts, with its portrayal of the skinhead community. Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) actually finds a home, much to his mother, Cynth’s (Jo Hartley) horror, with the gang. Mind you, that does not stop her leaving Shaun with them after she has confronted them in a café.

Shaun has earned their respect, especially that of the gang's leader Woody (Joe Gilgun) who is impressed when he stands up for himself when they gently pick on him one day. His acceptance into the group is confirmed when Lol (Vicky McClure) gives him his first skinhead haircut. His identification with the group is further strengthened with his acceptance of the group's clothing, though getting his mum to get him the right boots is a bit of turmoil as she does not understand that he has moved his allegiance away from home to that of the group.

There is little of the violent racism that would come to define this subculture; in fact one of the skinheads is Milky, so called because of his dark skin, played by Andrew Shim. Although there is an amount of concentration on his skin colour, the nickname seems benign and friendly, this is not to last. The fights are playful and you can see, in the way that they look after Shaun, why he should feel nurtured and comforted by the group.

This all changes with the return of Combo (Stephen Graham) in a masterfully powerful performance, whose presence tears the, up till now benign, group into two factions - one led by Woody and the other led by Combo with his home grown fascistic racism. Having lost his father, Shaun makes the mistake of joining Combo’s group, as Combo appears to be the stronger male presence in his life.

This is a well featured disc with the options of either a DTS - HD or 5.1 tracks with optional subtitles. There is a full length commentary, that is well worth a listen, with the director, producer and Thomas Turgoose as well as an audio descriptive track for the poor of sight.

The look of the film is deliberately stark and slightly grainy, this coupled with the excellent eighties soundtrack adds to the authenticity of the film which is further enhanced with its handheld, almost documentary, look.

The disc continues to impress with its list of extras. First up are the interviews, one with Shane Meadows at the BFI (48 min, 42 sec) another Shane Meadows interview (4 min, 22 sec) and lastly an interview with Mark Herbert, the producer (11 min, 20 sec). The interviews are generally very informative about the film, in the way that many Hollywood interviews are not. Next we have four behind the scenes pieces Combos Flat (8 min, 48 sec) which is a rehearsal of the scene; Shaun’s Haircut (5 min, 50 sec) shows the shooting of the scene; Party Scene (8 min, 38 sec) has the actors talking about Shaun’s big kissing scene; and News Agent Raid (8 min, 36 sec) is the last of the rehearsal footage.

Under Casting and Rehearsal (30 min, 50 sec) we see the process of choosing the actors and Tommo’s Auditions Tape (6 min, 6 sec) is the full audition tape from Thomas Turgoose. There are seven deleted scenes, including an alternative ending. There's also a feature on Hair, Makeup and Costumes (33 min, 18 sec) which looks at their desire for authenticity in the look and feel of the era and a piece on Production Design (9 min, 47 sec). Lastly you get the Trailer (1 min, 59 sec).

This is not an easy film to watch, but it certainly deserves to be.


Charles Packer

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