This is England: Mods, New Romantics, and Skinheads are the major youth sub-cultures of this very English summer of 1983 and young 12-year-old Shaun is left wandering aimlessly alone and lost during the start of his school holidays, until his chance meeting with Woody and his fun and friendly Skinhead pack.
Run with the crowd, stand alone, you decide.
The first act - the setup - is one of the best filmed introductions to a movie and it's main protagonist, Shaun, a lonely young boy who is struggling to cope with the loss of his father, that I've seen. The opening three minutes depict the era - the early 80s, location - the UK, mood - Falklands war & riots and politics - Margret Thatcher & Ronald Reagan, in an incredible piece of film, historical footage, editing and music choice.
After a terrible last day of school term he meets and befriends an odd-ball group of misfits who invite him to be part of their gang. The characters are charming but socially looked down upon, but their intentions towards themselves and others are nothing but unharmful mischief.
The movie takes a sinister turn for the worse when Combo - a racist thug, just out of jail - turns up and infects the group causing tensions to rise and forcing allegiances to be made.
Some of the scenes are difficult to watch, and purposefully so. During Combo's first story, the editing and subtle looks between Woody, his girlfriend & Milky show their sense of disgust, but you are left with an uncertainty about their group as a whole. Similarly, in Combo's speech, rallying the troops, the strong language and harsh opinions make for an uneasy time for both the characters and the audience. The final confrontation between Milky and Combo makes for an explosive conclusion to the story and it is a scene that I always remember so vividly.
Woody is easily one of my favourite character, Milky is good too. Even Combo is a top notch villain. In fact, all the characters are down to earth and realistic, without being boring, yet each have their own eccentricities but don’t end up being caricatures.
This Is England is a superb movie. The screenplay is taut, crammed with conflict, tough decisions and scenes many in British society can relate to. There are both loveable and despise-able characters who all have punchy and well scripted dialogue. Even the locations have notable presence and something to convey. The cinematography, editing and soundtrack are all world class - some of the best I’ve seen in a movie. You can't get better than this - highly recommended.