Shane Meadows, the film-maker, brings us to discover the skinhead movement without taking side, just like in a documentary. It’s the opportunity for the public to know a little bit more about this movement that was borne in England before extending itself to Europe and the rest of the world.
The movie takes us in the England of Thatcher. First, we meet a rather happy and human group, different from the stupid and naughty skin cliché that we would have expected. Let’s take, for example, these moments when they meet in a café that looks so British to have a traditional breakfast, or when they simply share a cup of tea …
Then, things get more complicated when the head of the band gets out from jail. More involved in politics and far more radicalised than the rest of the group, he cherishes Pakibashing, which makes him the living embodiment of the far Right.
Their British style (Ben Sherman square jackets, strappy Levi’s, Doc Martens…), common details (having a fatty in the group…) and the natural acting really drag the spectator in their world.
This is England stresses the contradictions underlying this movement when, for example, showing the different nuances of radicalism and political involvements, or when recalling the linkage with reggae, where the skin takes its roots. But there is also the fact that its followers are not necessarily white.
The movie also invites us to think about the frustrations and humiliations that raise the need for belonging to a group, and carry this clan concept that would help an individual to affirm himself. This happens in a time when extremism takes new shapes but is still growing from common grounds (poverty, humiliation…).
This is England was honoured by many rewards. Behind drawing the picture of a movement, and just like the recent Very British gangster and other Control do, Shane Meadows’ talent is to drag us in this English society, so typical and so positive for the cinema.
Guillaume De Pauw / Translation Sophie Helbert