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The coming of age of a skinhead in post-Thatcher England

  • Oct 19, 2007
"This is England" is a riveting story about a lonely young boy who lost his father in the Falkland War and who turns to a group of young "skinheads" for kicks and friendship. All of the kids are tough troublemakers who get the kid, Shaun, involved in activities that no twelve year old should be involved in, but they are depicted as mainly a good group of kids, who don't have much besides each other and so really care about each other. They are into music and drinking and the occasional "spliff" but aren't haters and don't like violence. That is, until the return of an old friend who spent three years in prison and acquired a violent and totalitarian and racist streak, and tries to recruit the "gang" for his own "political" activities. Shaun, who is apparently based on the director's own past, has to make a choice, and the film is about how that choice will profoundly affect his young life. The film also draws an ironic connection between the colonialist activities of England overseas and the xenophobic and nationalistic tendencies of the homegrown skinheads. The music is perfect, and the film should be seen for the soundtrack alone; the filmmakers do a nice job tying the story to documentary footage from the era and seem to have created a spot on characterization of the period; the film is hard to watch, especially because everything that happens is happening to or is directly participated in by a twelve year old boy; and the language, while presumably authentic, is extremely harsh (both in the sense of its extraordinarily prolific usage of a word that begins with f, and in the sense of being hard for at least these ears to discern fully due to the heaviness of the regional accents). Still, if you like your films to open you up to a different world, and to be honest in their depiction of that world whether it is comfortable or not, and if you appreciate thoughtful filmmakers who take risks and who push in small ways the envelope of commercial filmmaking, then this is definitely one to watch.

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More This is England reviews
review by . March 30, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Story, acting (particularly Thomas Turgoose      Cons: Some of the relationships strain credibility      The Bottom Line: The film's themes are not pleasant ones, but the acting and music alone are enough to warrant consideration.      Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. I think we prefer to think that thugs or otherwise violent sub-cultures as “totally other.” This Is …
review by . February 25, 2008
"This is England"    Skinhead Culture    Amos Lassen    Skinhead culture mystifies the western world because it is one of the few remaining subcultures in the West and it also has connections to the Nazis. During the summer of 1983 there were "mods", "new romantics" and "skinheads" on England. Twelve year old Shaun is left to wander aimlessly alone and lost at the beginning of his school holidays. By chance he meets Woody and his friends, …
About the reviewer
Nathan Andersen ()
Ranked #29
I teach philosophy at Eckerd College, in Saint Petersburg, Florida.      I run an award-winning International Cinema series in Tampa Bay (, and am co-director of … more
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About this movie


School is out for summer, and 12 year old Shaun is about to find a dangerous new group of friends. Having lost his father in the Falklands War, life has been lonely in this grim coastal town in northern England. When Shaun meets the local skinheads, however, their companionship and even their violence appeal to Shaun’s hurt and rage. In Combo, an older volatile skinhead, Shaun finds a big brother and under Combo’s leadership, the gang and young Shawn will arrive at an irreversible act of violence.
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DVD Release Date: November 13, 2007
Runtime: 101 minutes
Studio: Ifc

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