Tag Archives: ENGLAND

CLASSIC FILM REVIEW: THIS IS ENGLAND (2006)

CLASSIC FILM REVIEW: THIS IS ENGLAND (2006)

Written and directed by: Shane Meadows

Produced by: Mark Herbert

Cast: Thomas Turgoose, Vicky McClure, Joseph Gilgun, Stephen Graham, Andrew Shim, Stephen Graham, Andrew Ellis, Jack O’Connell, Rosamund Hanson, Danielle James, Kriss Dosanjh, Chanel Cresswell etc.

Cinematography: Danny Cohen

Music by: Ludovico Einaudi

**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

I remember the early 1980’s for: Thatcher, miners’ strikes, racism, teacher strikes, Shergar, penny sweets, Wham, bicycle tyres round lamp posts, white dog-shit, the IRA, hating school, riots, racism, heatwaves, Spitting Image, Duran Duran, caravan holidays in Canvey Island, Sergio Tacchini tracksuits, Bjorn Borg, bombs, the Falklands War, Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), sherbet, cap-guns, Spurs winning the FA Cup, Fred Perry, glue-sniffing, school bullies and much, much more.

The early 1980’s were the primary years of awakening for me. I was ten when they started and grew into my teens as they drifted along. I was at a school I hated and was just becoming fully aware of what life and the world around me was about. It seemed to me, for various reasons, a place full of wonder but also injustice, fear and negativity. I grew up on a concrete Battersea council estate full of ruffians, stray dogs, sunshine, cold winters and family dysfunction.

Tapping into such emotions and memories is Shane Meadows’ gritty slice-of-life drama, This is England (2006). Set in the Midlands, it centres on twelve-year-old Shaun, portrayed by newcomer, Thomas Turgoose. Shaun and his mum are grieving the loss of his father; a soldier killed during the Falklands War. Shaun is angry, confused and an outsider at school. But he finds community when he meets Woody, Lol, Milky, Michelle, Gadget and other members of a group of skinheads. They are non-violent and into the music, fashion and generally fending off boredom together.

The first forty minutes of the show are politically infused but relatively light compared to the last hour. When Stephen Graham’s dominant alpha-male, Combo, is released from jail, the narrative dynamic changes and goes very dark. Combo is a bitter racist and angry at the world, blaming, like many ignorant people the influx of people from outside England of diluting the heritage of the nation. Meadows, through the character of Shaun, shows both sides of the impact of skinhead culture. Similar to the film, Platoon (1986), a younger, naive character becomes torn between two surrogate fathers. In this case the violent Combo and the passive, happy-go-lucky, Woody (Joseph Gilgun).

The film has no easy answers and what starts as a reasonably pleasant nostalgia trip backed by a superb soundtrack of punk, ska and reggae music, ends violently and in despair. The socio-political reflections of society through Shaun’s character arc finds a young boy even more lost in this forgotten Midland town by the end. The damning image of this lad chucking an English flag into the sea haunted me.

Shane Meadows, on a relatively low budget, has created a British film masterpiece worthy of the likes of Alan Clarke, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. He captures the look, feel, sounds and even smell of the era so evocatively. As a rites of passage film it works as an antithesis to the shiny Hollywood films with tightly wrapped happy endings. It’s a brutal exploration of identity, politics and racism which lingers long in the heart and mind. In Turgoose’ debut acting performance we get echoes of Englands’ innocence lost forever.

Lastly, the cast are incredible. This film has some familiar faces, all who would become pretty famous. They include: Stephen Graham, Vicky McClure, Joe Gilgun, Jo Hartley and a very young Jack O’Connell. Such actors would go on to bigger things but, collectively, they are never better than in this amazing film. It’s a true and proper drama which spawned an equally memorable and dramatically impressive television series. But, more about that in the future.

TEN THINGS I QUITE LIKED ABOUT YOU – SWANSEA, WALES

TEN THINGS I DIDN'T MIND ABOUT YOU - SWANSEA

In 2005 me and my ex-partner separated and I moved back to live in London.  She continued to live in Ascot, Berkshire with my son, Rhys.  However, three-and-a-half years ago she decided — for some random reason unknown to me — to move my son and herself to Swansea in Wales.  This created much tension and resentment on my part which festered and cause some disagreement and from time-to-time verbal jousts. However, after over 3 years of travelling up and down the M4 to see my son she finally — with my help — moved back to Ascot.

PAUL_WHITE_VANMAN

My son is a funny and intelligent boy of 13 and as we moved all their stuff we had a quite deep existential conversation about his Swansea adventure. Demonstrating an Albert Camusesque approach to the last few years the boy stated that the whole “move to Swansea had been a bit pointless?”  I considered this for a moment and weighed up whether it had been worth:

1)   Hours driving up and down the M4 motorway getting stuck in all manor of traffic jams.

2)  Almost dying when skidding from one lane to the next in the torrential rain.

3)  Witnessing accidents and aftermath of accidents on the M4 as well as a whole host of road-killed dead animals.

4) Having to pay the extortionate and forever rising cost of crossing the Severn Bridge to get into Wales.

5) Paying the pricks in Government a fortune in tax on petrol! And a bit on petrol too.

6) Paying to stay in many, many, Hotels and Bed and Breakfasts.

Internally, the Hulk-like rage was building up inside me as I prepared to let go a volley of anger in having to experience all this but then I decided it had been worth it.  He’s my son and he is worth every penny and I would have gone EVERY weekend if money had allowed. In fact, if I thought they would not come back I would have moved there to be with him.  Probably.

So I told my son that it WAS worth it because it had been a positive experience and there are worse places in the world than Swansea. For anyone interested in going there here are some of the sites and delights I experienced which made it all worthwhile.

1.  THE GOWER PENINSULA

gower

If you love beaches (not the film) and walks and nature then this is the place for you.  As Keats may say: “a thing of beauty is a joy forever!”

2. DINOSAUR PARK and SHOWCAVES

SWANSEACAVE_1

This place was fantastic with beautiful scenery and wonderful majestic caves which made one feel very humble. The dinosaurs ain’t bad either.

3. FOOD

Definitely check out these places if you want okay food. The Uplands Diner – Home of the Megabeast – is a great café!

UPLANDS_DINER

Cosmo is very reasonably priced all-you-can-scoff buffet place.

The Madras Takeaway in Sketty was VERY good Indian food –

SWANSEA_MADRAS

Plus there’s loads of pubs and clubs in the town which I’m sure are good for getting wasted and picking up cheap men or women. I just didn’t go out at the weekends as I was too knackered from the drive! NOT THAT I’M BITTER OR ANYTHING!

4. ACCOMMODATION

I stayed in loads and loads of hotels and B & B’s while I visiting Swansea but the best one was definitely in Uplands and that was The Alexander.  The people who run it are so polite and friendly without being intrusive.  I enjoyed my stay there each time and the breakfast was great plus it was cheap but not nasty.

SWANSEA_THEALEXANDER

5 – OAKWOOD THEME PARK 

Technically not in Swansea but in Tenby this is Wales equivalent to Alton Towers. It’s no patch on the Midlands Monster Park and a bit rough around the edges. However, it has some great rides especially the SPEED rollercoaster. Very frightening!

SWANSEA_OAKWOOD

 
6. HORSE-RIDING – PARC-LE-BREOS- ON THE GOWER

This was a fantastic day out and pretty reasonably priced as well. If you like horse-riding and like beaches then why not go horse-riding on the beach. The views were outstanding.

SWANSEA_HORSE

7. BATTLEFIELD LIVE – LASER-COMBAT

The boy didn’t like horse-riding that much as it was “boring” but he loved this action-game-similar-to-paintball-but-much-much better as you get 10 lives per game and don’t get covered in paint.

SWANSEA_BATTLEFIELD

Unfortunately this young lady isn’t there but it’s still great fun running around pretending you’re Rambo and shooting people with toy laser guns!

8. FOLLY FARM

This is the cutest place in the whole of Swansea with a whole Noah’s Ark of domestic, farm and exotic animals. It also has playgrounds and fun for all the family; even a cynical, grumpy bugger like me.

SWANSEA_FOLLYFARM

9.  SKIDZ GO-KARTING

Me and Rhys had a great time doing this and on a Sunday morning we’d have the track to ourselves. I was brilliant at the karting and the kid regularly ate the dust; and I beat him in the race too.

SWANSEA_GOKART

 
10. SINGLETON PARK, CLYNE GARDENS  & OTHER PARKS

I do a lot of running and walking and Singleton Park and other parks in Swansea are absolutely beautiful in the Spring and Summer. Swansea overall is a very natural and wonderfully fresh place. Especially when compared to the gut-wrenching-lung-busting-pollution of London.

SWANSEA_SINGLETON

CONCLUSION

 That’s the end of the list.  The boy hates sport so I didn’t get to go to the Liberty Stadium to watch rugby or football. We went to the cinema a lot too.  But basically these are all places I have visited and things I would not have done if my son hadn’t moved to Swansea so overall I would say it wasn’t pointless at all.  Just a lot of hard work driving back and forth. But he’s family so you have to do the right thing by your family.

Having said all that the greatest thing I ever saw on my trips to Wales was this:

england

Welcome to England!  Because as Dorothy said, “There’s no place like home, Toto. There’s no place like home.” Welcome back son!