Finding comfort in the kindness of strangers
SOMERS TOWN Directed by Shane Meadows. Starring Thomas Turgoose, Kate Dickie, Piotr Jagiello, Ireneusz Czop
12A cert, Cineworld/IFI/Screen, Dublin, 75 min SOMERS Town is only 70 minutes long, it’s almost entirely in black and white, and it’s a kind of upscale promo for Eurostar. Yet, in the hands of Shane Meadows, England’s greatest sentimental realist, this unlikely film emerges as one of the finest of the season.
Asked by Eurostar to make a feature set in the penumbra of St Pancras Station, home to the London end of the Channel Tunnel rail link, Meadows, who had just finished work on his brilliant This Is England, hummed and hawed before being won over by a sweet script from his long-term collaborator, Paul Fraser.
The resulting film, whose references to its sponsor are fleeting, is little more than an extended sketch, but the performances are so secure and the simple story so satisfying that it fully deserves exhibition on the big screen.
Thomas Turgoose, the delightfully natural star of This Is England, appears as a teenage runaway fleeing Nottingham, Meadows’s usual stamping ground, for the perils and prospects of London. Within hours of his arrival in Somers Town, an estate bordering Kings Cross, he gets beaten up by the local toughs and has all his possessions stolen.
After accepting a few quid from a kindly Scottish lady (Kate Dickie from Red Road), he makes friends with a Polish immigrant (Piotr Jagiello) and finds work renting deckchairs for a local wide boy (Perry Benson).
Fans of Meadows’s earlier work will note the return of certain themes. Once again a teenager embarks on relationships with older males who, we initially suspect, may not have his best interests in mind. But Meadows is an optimist in matters of the human spirit. As the story progresses, this potentially grim film takes on a sunnier aspect. With the credits looming, it even allows a little colour on to the screen.
Jules et Jim for geezers, Kes for positive thinkers, Somers Town confirms that, even operating at half-speed, Meadows still looks like one of our era’s most singular directors. Don’t let this little beauty pass you by.
Tough enough: Thomas Turgoose and Piotr Jagiello in Somers Town