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Christmas 1988. Soulmates, woody and Lol find themselves in exile from each other and the gang. Trying to understand the definition 'growing up', Shaun begins a course at College, that quickly takes the wrong turn.
The year is 1990, the rave scene has just entered England. The sound of the Stone roses lurks toward Shaun and the gang. This means that Woody and Lol are living in a domestic bliss, they are happy again. But this year will see huge changes in everyone. This is the year 1990. This is England.
Lyra Mae Thomas,
In a typical English working-class town, the juveniles have nothing more to do than hang around in gangs. One day, Alan Darcy, a highly motivated man with the same kind of youth experience, starts trying to get the young people off the street and into doing something they can believe in: Boxing. Soon he opens a training facility which is accepted gratefully by them and the gangs start to grow together into friends. Darcy manages to organize a public fight for them to prove what they have learned. A training camp with hiking tours into the mountains of Wales forge the group into a tight-knit club society. With the day of the fight drawing closer, the young boxers get more and more excited.Written by
Julian Reischl <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Performed by Paul Weller
Written by Paul Weller
Published by BMG Music Publishing Ltd./Stylist Music Ltd.
Record courtesy of Island Records Ltd.
Licensed by kind permission of
The Polygram Commercial Marketing Division See more »
Gritty and convincing drama delivered with heart, realism, style and talent
In a deprived area of Nottingham, young men hang around on the streets in small groups, unable or unwilling to find anything beyond their very immediate horizon to aspire to. The result is petty crime, educational underachievement, drug use and endless poverty. Alan Darcy is a local himself but old enough to remember the old days, where it wasn't all like this and back when a local boxing club helped to engage the youth and engender pride in themselves and their surroundings. With sponsorship from a local "businessman", Darcy sets up the club and uses his natural charisma to win over a handful of members bit by bit. However with negativity engrained throughout the community, the fight to aspire is not an easy one.
Watching Shane Meadow's most recent film (This is England) reminded me what a talent we currently have working within British cinema and it made me revisit a few of his early films that have been screened recently as part of the BBC's summer of British film. On paper this could be a typical sports movie with a group of young men finding fulfilment and meaning through sport. However this is not Hollywood, it is Nottingham and as such Meadow's opens the film with the end a simple scenes that sets the entire film as flashback and tells us from the very start that what we are about to watch has pretty much failed. With this knowledge in the back of our minds as we then watch the rest of the film, sentiment is kept at bay.
Of course the delivery generally helps this because it is gritty and convincing. The lack of hope and opportunity that forms the driver for the narrative is always present whether it is the characters or the bleak black and white cinematography and it is a real strength of the piece that it manages to do this while still retaining a sliver of hope throughout. It is hard for me to describe because I'm not that good a writer, but the mix of this comes off really well without coming over easy or simplistic. The conclusion is the closest that it comes to offering a "happy ending" but for me I took that more as people are people (hence we see mostly people individually or in small groups being OK) and that the situation is usually what makes the wider groups lack hope and aspiration.
Maybe this idea appeals to my liberal politics and thus I engaged with the film more, however someone from the right could also view the film as feel affirmed by the idea that you cannot help such people because they don't want to be helped. I liked the film because it can be seen in both ways and that it isn't as black and white as the pictures just like reality there is an element of truth from all views. Although it all comes to a dramatic head, Meadows and Fraser do well to feed in the negativity throughout in the form of certain characters and situations, while also bringing others out of themselves as Darcy manages to connect them to something. Accordingly the end of the film is also a mix of failure and success. I found it touching throughout and, although it did sometimes sail close to melodrama it never really went there and came across as realistic and convincing throughout.
The cast are a big part of making this aspect of the script work. Hoskins leads the cast well with a strong performance. He does have the charisma his character needs but he also lets the strain show while also handling his own character's aspirations and frustrations well. Jones perhaps has a quite simplistic character (ie he serves a specific purpose within the narrative) but he deals with it well. The young cast are quite impressive with everyone coming off natural and convincing something that Meadows regularly seems to be able to get from his actors. Nussbaum, Brady, Badland, Collins, Hand, Campbell and others all look like they aren't really acting for the most part, which I consider a good thing within this context. It is also worth mentioning that the soundtrack also comes over like the "12th man" of the team that is this film; plenty of great tracks and almost all of them really well used and fitted in with the film.
Overall then, an impressive feature debut from Meadows and is all the better given we are not looking back at it as "his one good moment before burning out"; conversely the strengths he showed here he has kept and built on even if the total product has not always been as good as it was here. Gritty and realistic, this film delivers hope and depression, misery and comedy, violence and humanity and remains true to its characters and environment. It is an excellent film and criminally under-seen.
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