The Netflix pick of the week for 04-05-14 is the great but little known 2006 film This Is England. The movie is written and directed by Shane Meadows, and stars Thomas Turgoose in his first feature film as Shaun, a troubled and lost kid growing up in early 80’s England. The exact year the film takes place is 1983, this was right after the Falklands war. The Falklands war was between Argentina and the United Kingdom, it lasted about 10-weeks and took the lives of 255 British military personnel. One of those 255 was Thomas’s father, something that affected him deeply. It is a time of political disturbance in England.
At the start of the film we see Thomas is a lonely 12-year-old kid, he lives with his mother in a small apartment, or flat as they call it, and doesn’t do much. At school he is teased and bullied, only when another boy goes too far by making fun of his dead father does Thomas react and fight the boy, landing him in trouble with the school. Luckily summer is here, and Thomas does not have to go back to school for a few months. It is on his way back home one day that Thomas runs into a group of older boys, skin-heads to be exact. The early 80’s in England was a time where the major teen sub-culture were skin-heads. The leader of the group is Woody, played by Joe Gilgun. Against expectations, Woody and his group are actually kind to Thomas and they take the 12-year-old under their wing. Thomas becomes especially close to Woody and Milky, played by Andrew Shim. Milky is actually black, but none the less accepted and loved within the group. The whole skin-head ideal for these teens is more of a way to fit in than anything else.
For the first time in a long time Thomas feels like he is a part of a family with the group of skin-head teens, they all clown around together, have parties and even give Thomas new clothing, knowing his mother can’t afford much to give him. Thomas feels loved and accepted by his new adopted family. All is well for a while until Combo, the former leader of the group is released from prison. Combo is a menacing force to deal with, he is man filled with rage and jealousy, ready to unleash his wrath to any one that may get in his way. Combo is a true skin-head, he is a militant, racist and worst of all psychotic. Combo is brilliantly played by Stephen Graham, Graham encompasses all the bitterness and anger in Combo and is able to portray both a menacing and sorrow portrayal of the enigmatic character. Combo causes Woody and other members of the group to leave as he starts to constantly spread hateful slurs towards blacks and other ethnicities, especially toward Milky. Combo however takes a liking to Thomas, and against Woody’s advice Thomas chooses to follow Combo as they go spreading their hate around town. Combo takes Thomas to meetings with other racist skin-heads, Thomas becomes engulfed into the skin-head world of hate. The Netflix pick of the week takes a dark turn at this point in the film, showing a grim side to England at the time. In Thomas’s search for family he falls in deep with Combo, and he comes into a cross-roads in his life where he must choose the man he will grow up to be. The film’s climax is violent and grotesque in its utter realism.
The Netflix pick of the week, This Is England, has it all. The film is wonderfully crafted by Meadows, from the gritty yet beautiful cinematography by Danny Cohen to the real and engaging performances by every single actor in the film, all is top-notch. What truly weaves the Netflix film together is the soundtrack by Ludovico Einaudi, a spectacularly stimulating soundtrack that truly brings you into the film. No need to waste this weekend figuring out what to watch from the thousands of choices on Netflix, this weekend pick This Is England. Check back again for the next pick of the week.
Opinion by Miguel A. Tamayo