All The Pretty Horses…

Meadows Does It Again
February 18, 2007, 7:45 pm
Filed under: Looking

after Dead Man’s Shoes – one of the upsetting films I’ve ever watched* – Shane Meadows has done it again. This Is England is just astonishing – the tone and mood is perfect, the performances – from the leads down to the minor characters – are without fail excellent, it’s just a brilliant brilliant film. The odd slightly heavy-handed moment is a minor price to pay for the rest.

I can only assume that the scripts are at least semi-improvised, I can’t think of many other films where the acting just seems so un-actorly, so natural. Certain scenes – for example between Combo and Lol – are utterly convincing. The young actor playing Sean, the main protagonist, doesn’t turn in a flawless performance – there are a couple of awkward moments – but it’s very very impressive nonetheless. There’s a flow to the banter and bickering that can look so forced when done badly and the cultural specifics are almost spot on throughout (being a little anal, it only takes one song or poster or tshirt out of place to mess up the ‘authenticity’ for me).

And when things go wrong, it’s plausible and complex – there are no easy answers in this film. The portrayal of people’s involvement in the Far Right is so much more satisfying (perhaps ‘satisfying’ isn’t the right word) than in something like American History X (although not having seen Tony Kaye’s original cut who knows what that film could have been like if Norton / the studio hadn’t hacked it).

I can’t think of another film that looks and feels exactly the way I remember that part of my life – my mid-teens. The specifics vary but the reference points and the bleakness are a good fit. If there is a flaw, it’s Meadow’s ongoing championing of the Clayhill / Gravenshurt guy on the soundtrack – this guy (who I believe Meadows’ manages or label-heads or some such role) is pretty underwhelming but nonetheless keeps cropping up in Meadows’ movies. Using a substandard version of a Smiths song at the film’s close didn’t work, and wouldn’t have worked even with the original version.

Sean is at least partly based on Shane Meadows’ own youth – I’m not sure to what degree – and he’s done the story justice. This is good enough for me to make it out to the Ritzy when it opens in April, despite having already seen it.

(* I first watched Dead Man’s Shoes in the midst of mourning a recently ended relationship. On a comedown. In an empty cinema. On a rainy Wednesday afternoon. At the end I felt more shellshocked and empty than after any other cinema experience. I guess we’re used to our ‘splatter’ movies featuring cookie cutter US college types and there’s absolute no ‘reality’ to it. The characters who get offed in Dead Man’s Shoes – I KNOW these people, I grew up with them. Small time nomark dealer arseholes. So this makes the vengeance meted out all the more plausible and all the more harrowing. And again – from the Pot Noodles to the conversation to the shit clothes – picture perfect in its detail).


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