BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
AUGUST 19, 2021
“Men have laid down their lives for this. For this… and for what? So people can stick their fucking flag in the ground and say, “Yeah! This is England. And this is England, and this is England.””— Combo (Stephen Graham)
Welcome to England in 1983. At 12 years old, Shaun has lost his father in the Falklands War and is getting picked on in school. So when Woody offers him a place in their gang of skinheads, he enthusiastically accepts.
You root for these guys, in part because you feel sorry for Shaun in his loner status. Also, Joe Gilgun (Woody) is so charming as the gang leader; it’s hard not to root for him. He’s precisely the type of person you’d want looking out for your son. And the gang’s antics start innocent enough.
Then, enter “Combo,” a former member of the gang who is fresh out of prison. His views toward English nationalism are a bit more extreme and lead to the fracturing of the group.
Stephen Graham as Combo is perfect casting. There’s a glamor to the man, but at the same time, a sense of volatile danger. Combo sees himself in Shaun and acts as a father figure to him. But, whereas Woody’s gang kept things light, with Combo, things get violent. They vandalize a convenience store because the shop owner is Pakistani. They threaten people with machetes. Shaun doesn’t seem to realize he’s headed down a dark path.
With a semi-autobiographical approach, there’s an air of authenticity to “This Is England.” When he was 12 years old, writer/director Shane Meadows fell in with the wrong crowd. He even experienced the brutal beating that takes place in the film. Without that insight, you could have compared this to any other coming-of-age film. Instead, it comes off memorable, honest, and soul-bearing.
October 31, 2006
Thomas Turgoose … Shaun Fields
Stephen Graham … Andrew “Combo” Gascoigne
Jo Hartley … Cynthia Fields
Joe Gilgun … Richard James “Woody” Woodford
Vicky McClure … Frances Lorraine “Lol” Jenkins
Andrew Shim … Michael “Milky”
Rosamund Hanson … Michelle “Smell”
Andrew Ellis … Gary “Gadget” Flowers
Perry Benson … Ronald “Meggy” Megford
George Newton … Banjo
Jack O’Connell … “Pukey” Nicholls
Kieran Hardcastle … Kes
Chanel Cresswell … Kelly Jenkins
Danielle Watson … Trev
Sophie Ellerby … Pob
Kriss Dosanjh … Mr. Sandhu
Michael Socha … Harvey
Frank Harper … Lenny
Hannah Walters … Trudy