this-is-england-jan-22ndIn this semi-autobiographical film from Shane Meadows, we follow the story of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose), a vulnerable 12 year-old growing up in post-Falklands Britain. After the death of his serviceman father, Shaun finds himself befriended by Woody, the easy-going leader of a skinhead gang, and is initiated into their culture of petty crime. The narrative turns to a darker vein, following the release from jail of Combo, a malign influence who gives the gang a racist taint. The brutal reality of life in this gang leads to a very violent conclusion. Meadows unflinchingly depicts a lesser-walked landscape of life in Thatcher’s Britain in this BAFTA award winning film which invites comparisons with films such as Loach’s Kes. (Cert 18)
Dir: Shane Meadows 98 mins UK 2007

Programme Notes

Thursday, 22nd January 2009


UK 2007, 98 mins. Cert. 18

Set in northem Britain in 1983, this tale of 12-year old Shaun becoming by far the youngest member of a skinhead gang was the ninth film directed by Shane Meadows. Leslie Felperin (Sight and Sound, May 2007) points out that most of Meadows’s films have been set in “council house England well north of the Watford Gap but below Scotland”, and more than once presenting a young man (here a boy) with having to make critical move about where he stands.

Shaun’s father has been killed in the Falklands war and gang-leader Woody gives him admirable and sensitive support. This might not be the viewer’s expectation of a skinhead, nor might one expect a skinhead gang to split over the issue af racism. Well, the director was a skinhead in the period when the film is set, so he should know. If we didn’t know this, would we smell an autobiographical rat?

The film reminds us of the period very skilfully – watch the credit sequence, for example. Unemployment had hit 3 million in 1982 and was slow to dissipate, which probably justifies the over-sixteens in the film having so much leisure. You may well be expecting the very disturbing violent climax but, be warned, it could take you by surprise.

“The BNP coming in and Nazi skins are what got reported, but it was much more open than that. It didn’t make sense to me to be a racist in that group because a lot of the music was black and you were from the same working class culture, wanting to stand out and say I’m not a worthless piece of nothing.” — Shane Meadows, quoted in Sight and Sound, May 2007.

Shaun Fields – Thomas Turgoose
Combo – Stephen Graham
Cynth – Jo Hartley Editor Elvis Wym
Milky – Andrew Shim
Lol – Vicky McClure
Woody – Joe Gilgun
Smell – Rosamund Hanson
Gadget – Andrew Ellis
Directed and written by Shane Meadows
Director of Photography – Danny Cohen
Editor – Chris Wyatt
Production Designer – Ludovicio Einaudi


“A very powerful account of a bleak period in our history. Excellent.”

“Congratulations on grasping the nettle by choosing this. The plot was readily followed, characters real and the issues important.”

“Great film. Glad it had a happy ending – unfortunately, for so many it probably wasn’t.”

“Horribly brilliant. Words fail me.”

“Very strong – potential and actual violence totally credible.”

“Very powerful film, hard to watch”

“I didn’t hate it but it was a hard watch in parts. I seem to remember 1983 as a very polarised time in Britain, between south and north, dispossessed white working class and confusion about patriotism; ie, the flag of St. George [being a] symbol of HM Government in the Falklands or a skinhead badge! I loved the tenderness and
human conversations between the gang members.”

“Fascinating – great photography, great sense of period. Newsreel [footage] well used.”

“Showed us inside the heads of the perpetrators; brilliantly done.”

“Bigger issues apart, didn’t this film do great job of getting the feel of that time?”

“I just don’t remember it being like that around here in 1982/1983.”

“Another time, another place, another story!”

“Sad – why?”

“Very sobering – they were all victims.”

“Sponsored by families in need of fathers? Didn’t hate it but felt uncomfortable.”

“Could this be forecast of things to come – unemployment, immigration, credit crunch?”

“Unrealistic – too much sloppy kindness – where was [his] mother? Would young adults and then older men really tolerate such a naïve child joining them? Unless for sexual reasons, which did not appear [to be the case].”

“Sorry to say that I found several main characters unconvincing.”


A:18, B:13, C:3, D:1, E:1 to give 82%