The Daily Telegraph - Review - - Arts -

This is Eng­land 18, Op­ti­mum, 2 discs, £18·99 This is Shane Mead­ows (Twenty Four Seven; A Room for Romeo Brass; Dead Man’s Shoes; This is Eng­land) 18, Op­ti­mum, 4 discs, £32·50 Shane Mead­ows says that Martin Scors­ese’s Mean Streets (1973) saved him by re­veal­ing his vo­ca­tion – to make films, turn­ing his work­ing-class Mid­land up­bring­ing to cin­e­matic ac­count. What cin­ema saved him from ap­pears most di­rectly in his latest, finest and most au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal film, last year’s This is Eng­land, which shows the Scors­ese in­flu­ence in its stylis­tic verve and con­vinc­ing re­cre­ation of group dy­nam­ics.

In de­pressed 1983 Grimsby, 12-yearold hero Shaun (Thomas Tur­goose), his fa­ther killed in the Falk­lands, is an un­happy, drift­ing, de­fi­ant vic­tim of bul­ly­ing – un­til he is adopted by a win­ningly harm­less gang of skin­heads.

The film dark­ens with the ar­rival of an older, in­tim­i­dat­ing skin­head, Combo (Stephen Gra­ham), back from prison with ter­ri­fy­ing, hate-filled racist pol­i­tics. Young Shaun is se­duced by this charis­matic, bru­tal, pri­vately vul­ner­a­ble fa­ther-fig­ure – un­til, in a char­ac­ter­is­tic Mead­ows way, ugly rage fright­en­ingly erupts.

Mead­ows’s fea­ture de­but, Twenty Four Seven (1997), star­ring Bob Hoskins, looked at first like a feel­good Full Monty- ish com­edy: its hero es­tab­lishes a box­ing club to teach dead-end kids to fight “prop­erly – with con­trol”; but it cul­mi­nates in a hor­ri­fy­ing ex­plo­sion of mur­der­ous fury, as does A Room for Romeo Brass (1999); while Dead Man’s Shoes (2004), a blackly comic re­venge West­ern set in the Peak Dis­trict, is this di­rec­tor’s Taxi Driver.

The films are fa­bles, but the lov­ing, un­pa­tro­n­is­ing ob­ser­va­tion and the se­ri­ous, dark sen­si­bil­ity – melan­choly pi­ano so­los punc­tu­ate This is Eng­land, seem­ingly ask­ing, need th­ese lives be so blighted? – have es­tab­lished Mead­ows as one of the most im­pres­sive direc­tors work­ing in Bri­tain to­day.

Stylis­tic verve: Thomas Tur­goose as Shaun in ‘This is Eng­land’

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