Continuing our weekly posting about the best “hidden gems” on Netflix, this week’s film is Shane Meadow’s This is England. Based on aspects of his childhood as well as the lives people he knew while growing up, This is England explores the beginnings and gradual growth and change of the skinhead movement in England, as well at the disenfranchised youths that took part in it. The film is both narratively impressive and provides a very interesting and person insight into what brought this counterculture movement to where it is today.
Set in England in the early 1980’s, twelve year old Shaun is a sad, lonely boy growing up without a father, or any friends to speak of. However, this all changes when he gets involved with a group of tough, counterculture teens with shaved heads. Shaun soon begins to fit into the group of skinheads, who at this time are relatively harmless kids interested in vandalism and petty crime. However when gang leader Combo is released from prison, he begins to push the group in a different direction, toward the National Front and racist hatemongering, the group begins to divide with unforeseen consequences.
What makes this movie so great is the synecdoche for the skinhead movement as a whole. The movie is able to both feel intimate and personal, and yet in a broader sense delves into the troubles the skinhead movement had as a whole when radical ideas began to polarize people on the movement. The characters are extremely well crafted and seeing the conflicts through the eyes if a 12 year old boy really creates and interesting dynamic within the movie. In my opinion, it is one of the better films to come out of England in recent memory.
4.5 out of 5