This is England. I’ve never seen a film that so completely sums up a place and time as this one; an England in a time before the internet, DVDs and Playstation, where the only outlet for bored teens was music and the tribal camaraderie that accompanies it.
The plot is not the best you will ever see, but this is one of those films where the plot is not the point; it skillfully sidesteps cliches and stereotypes and constantly defies jaded expectation. It has an understanding of humanity and what drives it that very few do; every single character is completely believable and it attempts to understand the motivations behind even the most despicable character. Even the hardcore nationalists are not demonised, but shown exactly as they are; a bunch of ignorant, self-important bullies who look to everyone and everything but themselves to blame for their own failings and problems. Much has been made of the performance of young Thomas Turgoose, but for me it was Stephen Graham as Combo who really impressed. My only reservation was that much of my enjoyment derived from the huge wave of nostalgia for my childhood and the years growing up in the 1980’s it provoked, so I’m not sure if it will translate to foreign audiences.
Both beautiful and ugly at exactly the same time, This Is England is emotionally affecting, frightening and very well observed.