Alternating with my viewing of Away From Her and The Namesake were trips to see This is England and Zodiac. Both the latter films feature male protagonists with women largely marginal and both feature scenes of violence. On first emerging from the screenings I felt that This is England was a terrific film and entirely worthwhile as a new British film, whereas I found Zodiac much more problematic. In fact I didn’t really enjoy Zodiac as entertainment, even if I could recognise the high quality of the direction, photography, production design etc. Since the screenings I’ve read a variety of reviews and the two feature articles in the May issue of Sight and Sound (check the This is England article here).
My only other viewings of Shane Meadows were of A Room for Romeo Brass and Dead Man’s Shoes. There are obvious links between all the films, not just in the use of some of the same actors, but also in the focus on groups of young men and the emergence of a character who is seemingly primed to explode. This is England seems to me to be a more mature film. This always sounds rather patronising, but it really does feel that it is a film that is more considered. I was convinced by the gang. However unlikely the juxtaposition of characters might seem to be, it felt right. The use of music, which in Romeo Brass felt ‘tacked on’, was here an integral part of the evocation of 1983. The costumes and production design were excellent too. The decision to shoot partly in Meadows’ favourite Nottingham suburbs and in Grimsby/Cleethorpes worked as well, though this was seemingly to meet the requirements of co-funders in EM Media and Screen Yorkshire. Geographically it didn’t make sense, but the scenes of Shaun (Shane?) on the beach could be construed as fantasy. The beach represented the last holiday with Dad, soon to be killed over the sea in the Falklands. It also worked for me in invoking a little seen Channel 4 funded film from the 1980s called Shoreline, in which a black man turns up on an East Coast shingle beach in the early 1940s.