• James Rutherford

'This is England': The Provocative Tale of a Young British Boy Compelled to Join a Gang of Skins


Movie poster for the British film This is England starring Thomas Turgoose

"This is England" (2006) is a provocative British drama starring Thomas Turgoose as Shaun, a 12-year-old adolescent living with his widowed mother in the East Midlands circa 1983. Mourning the death of his father in the Falklands War, Shaun is socially outcast and often bullied in school, before taking up with a gang of young skinheads lead by the sympathetic Woody (Joseph Gilgun).

The gang embraces the diminutive Shaun and provides him with the friendship and camaraderie he desperately craves, while indoctrinating him into their world of West Indian culture—including a major appreciation for reggae and ska music. When the volatile Combo (Stephen Graham) is released from prison and rejoins the gang, however, Shaun's allegiance shifts as he becomes increasingly influenced by the charismatic Combo's aggressive brand of nationalism and abject racism.

Written and directed by British filmmaker Shane Meadows ("Once Upon a Time in the Midlands", "Dead Man's Shoes"), "This is England" is a remarkably compelling coming-of-age tale, with Turgoose perfectly embodying the impressionable youth culture of early 80's-era England. His foray into neo-Nazi subculture is wrought with peril and alarm, as it delivers a uniquely individualized cautionary tale to the audience. Highly absorbing and downright chilling in its full realization, it's a grade-A human drama replete with significant historical and cultural overtones.

 

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