Sunday, April 14, 2013

This is England.

"Some people say we're racists. We're not racists. We're realists. Some people call us Nazis. We're not Nazis. No, what we are, we are nationalists and there's a reason people try to pigeonhole us like this. And that is because of one word, gentlemen. Fear."


Growing up is not easy, a constant need to belong and feel accepted is always present. This need was something that a lost 12 year old boy named Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) experienced as he was constantly being picked on and bullied both in and outside school. His situation changed the day he was stopped by Woody (Joseph Gilgun) and his friendly gang of skinheads as he was walking back home after a rough day at school. This is how Shaun's lonely and less than interesting life turns around in This is England (2006).
Set in the early 80's, this film is adapted from some of director Shane Meadows' real life experience as an 11 year old skinhead. After watching this film, I have come to a conclusion that there are 2 types of skinheads; one is the harmless, non-prejudiced and laid back type and the other is the scary, angry and discriminating one. Shaun's first encounter is with the harmless and a fun loving bunch who instantly welcome him in their lives. Woody, who is protective of him right from the beginning makes sure that he feels accepted and also transforms him to make him look like a part of the gang. Now here is a jolly and peace loving bunch of skinheads who don't mean trouble at all unless it comes to tearing town old abandoned houses while they go hunting wearing funny costumes. They also exhibit unity is diversity in the form of having a black member Milky (Andrew Shim) as a part of their group, with no hatred towards each other at all. With all the joy and laughs surrounding this harmless bunch Combo (Stephen Graham) enters, an old friend of Woody's who has just got out of jail. He brings with him his intense hatred towards the non-whites who live in England, which he developed in jail. According to him they have no place in his society and need to be kicked out immediately. Shaun experiences through him the other type of a skinhead who is tough, violent and aggressive. The one who thinks that using power is the only way to gain respect.

There is no denying the fact that using emotional tools to brainwash a person almost never fails. The Nationalist approach toward driving people to hate the immigrants worked wonders and a lot of locals were drawn into it. Combo comes in with such an approach and manages to convince little Shaun (who is having a tough time dealing with the loss of his father at the Falklands War) and Gadget (Andrew Ellis) to join him. He is exceptional with his intensely hostile character and creates that nervous atmosphere which kept me wondering what he will come up with next. This is England shows how the once friendly and peace-loving group of skinheads who were multicultural in nature, turn violent against the minorities as the frustration due to unemployment rose in the 80's. The working class' insecurity led to hatred against the minorities who could afford to sport a smile on their faces despite the tough situations. This movie captures different emotions in phases, it starts off with Shaun's loneliness and switches to light- hearted humorous phase once he finds Woody and gang, and with the arrival of Combo it brings in the tense and violent outbursts. It is impressive the way Meadows has recreated the 80's era and has incorporated the style into the characters and music in the background. Although I thought that Shaun's mother letting him hang around with the skinheads without much fuss was a bit unrealistic. Perhaps she didn't complain much thinking that her son finally found friends and a place where he feels accepted.

Stephen Graham, perhaps best known as Al Capone from
Boardwalk Empire and he is beyond tremendous in this role.
An honest movie depicting the discriminating attitudes which exist in the world that are fueled mainly by jealousy. The so-called leaders who for their own selfish needs trigger hatred among people using them as baits. This was also adapted into a four episode tv series named This is England '86 and a three episode This is England '88 which aired in 2010 and 2011 on British television respectively. Unfortunately, this is not just England, this is the world.


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