Anyone familiar with Shane Meadows' work (A Room for Romeo Brass, Once Upon a Time in the Midlands and TFF 2005's Dead Man's Shoes) will recognize his signature themes of masculinity and gritty, working class life. Set in the summer of 1983, This is England is no exception-it is also Meadows' most personal work to date. A former skinhead, Meadows grew up in the '80s, when the skinhead scene began to flourish during a period of rising unemployment, Margaret Thatcher and the Falklands War. Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is a 12-year- old in a downbeat coastal town, whose father died fighting in the Falklands. Lacking friends and a male role model, he is welcomed in by Woody (Joseph Gilgun) and his skinhead crew. With a complete makeover, including a Ben Sherman shirt, Shaun settles into summer with his newfound gang. When Combo (Stephen Graham) returns from a three-and-half-year stint in prison, the once-united gang splinters. During his incarceration, Combo became racist, and he manipulates the younger Shaun into joining his new sect, even taking him to a right-wing National Front meeting. Meadows effectively balances a serious tone and humor without becoming maudlin, and his unique choice to work with non-professional actors brings resounding success with the discovery of Turgoose (winner, Best Newcomer, 2006 British Independent Film Awards), who plays his part as a natural, handling the wide range of emotions effortlessly. This is England captures the period flawlessly and stands as a shining example of why Meadows deserves his international acclaim.
SHANE MEADOWS was born in Uttoxeter, England. As a self- taught filmmaker, he honed his craft by directing one short film every month for a year. This is England is semi-autobiographical, in that it touches on certain experiences that Meadows himself had while growing up; as the film is set in the early '80s, it is considered his first period film. Throughout the story of the film, Meadows highlights the ironic fact that the skinhead movement was initially born out of a love for black reggae music, which contradicts today's commonly held association of modern skinheads and racist affiliations.