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This Is England 

Shane Meadows

This Is England
Directed by: Shane Meadows
This is England is set in 1980s Thatcher-era Britain—most of its characters are skinheads. For some, like kind Woody (Joseph Gilgun), being a skinhead is a style choice. Woody shaves his head, wears combat boots, and is best friends with Milky (Andrew Shim), who's black. Other skinheads, like angry racist Combo (Stephen Graham), blame British joblessness on an influx of immigrants. The movie doesn't explain that in England being a skinhead was originally just a style choice, unaffiliated with racial motivation—so to dumb North Americans like me (accustomed to equating "skinhead" with "Klan member"), Woody and his friends seem like weird anomalies. Nor does This is England tell us much about the often-alluded-to Falklands War, which Combo insinuates was motivated by political misdirection of Bushian proportions. But director Shane Meadows has crafted a narrative that's effective, even if you don't always understand its politics. When lonely protagonist Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) hooks up with Woody's peeps, then, confused, joins Combo's gang of meaner skinheads, it's compelling and heartbreaking. While its ending rings false, the movie's thought-provoking-—and becomes even more so after one does the background research that Meadows's refusal to spell everything out for his audience necessitates.
Lindsay McCarney


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