This charm­ing man

An af­fec­tion­ate, and unau­tho­rised, dive into Mor­ris­sey’s early years


Eng­land is mine

15 Jack Low­den, Lau­rie Ky­nas­ton ★★★★ If Steven Pa­trick Mor­ris­sey didn’t ex­ist, some­one would have had to make him up. as char­ac­ters go, he’s one of the greats, a fab­u­lous mix­ture of north­ern grit, book­ish sen­ti­men­tal­ity, blind con­fi­dence, crip­pling self-doubt and raw tal­ent – per­fect, then, for com­mit­ting to cel­lu­loid.

Eng­land Is Mine takes a lov­ing look at his pre-smiths fame, back when he was a job­less teenager ob­sessed with writ­ing scathing re­views of lo­cal bands and send­ing them into the NME let­ters page. In a bed­room plas­tered with pic­tures of his he­roes, from James Dean to Os­car Wilde, we see Dunkirk ac­tor Jack Low­den sat mood­ily at his type­writer, bash­ing out fu­ri­ous screeds as his sis­ter sighs, his mother frets and his fa­ther sim­ply ups and leaves.

al­though the Scot­tish ac­tor has Mor­ris­sey’s world-weary drawl down pat, the fact he isn’t an out-and-out looka­like of the young star-in-the-mak­ing stops him from fall­ing into the trap of par­ody, an is­sue that of­ten ru­ins a per­fectly good rock biopic. In­stead, Low­den’s sweet and ten­der por­trayal of the no­to­ri­ously mardy Man­cu­nian casts light on the man un­der­neath the cor­duroy blazer as he looks for a job – and finds a job – then de­vel­ops a vi­tal friend­ship with gre­gar­i­ous, pop­u­lar art stu­dent Lin­der Ster­ling (Down­ton Abbey’s Jes­sica Brown find­lay).

In fact, the film seems to sug­gest that if it wasn’t for Ster­ling, Mor­ris­sey would still be stuck be­hind his type­writer, L-r: Jack Low­den as Mor­ris­sey and Lau­rie Ky­nas­ton as Johnny Marr as it’s she who at­tempts to bring him out of his shell and con­vinces him to join lo­cal band the nose­bleeds, who NME re­views and sings the praises of the front­man’s charisma, but also gets his name wrong – sorry, Moz.

Di­rec­tor Mark Gill, who also hails from Mor­ris­sey’s home­town of Stret­ford, per­fectly cap­tures the late

1970s of the north, from the dingy canals and damp, cob­bled streets to the ster­ile hos­pi­tals and grand old art schools, as well as Mor­ris­sey’s claus­tro­pho­bic In­land rev­enue of­fice, com­plete with a crabby boss straight out of a vin­tage sit­com. Mor­ris­sey’s early years might be ren­dered in glum browns, greys and blues, but it’s some­how one of the most colour­ful, heart­en­ing films of the sum­mer. Leonie Cooper

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