‘This is England’: From skinheads to Thatcher
After his Midlands trilogy, shot entirely in Northern England, director Shane Meadows presented his latest (competition) film, This is England, along with actors Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham and Jo Hartley, producer Mark Herbert and the film’s Italian composer, Ludovico Einaudi. The film tells the story of a summer in the life of 12 year-old Shaun, whose father has died in the Falklands War and who begins hanging out with a group of skinheads.
1983 England plays a fundamental role in the story of This is England, a portrait of the country during the Thatcher years. “I’d wanted to make a film on that period for some time but could never find the right story,” said Meadows. “In the 1980s, as a result of the economic crisis, second generation skinheads (of the movement that began in the 1960s) began taking violent, racist positions, politically similar to extreme nationalism”.
The film is also a faithful depiction of the popular subculture and highlights its aesthetics, music and language. However, the director revealed that behind the film’s almost documentary-like approach lies an intensely biographical story: “As a boy, I was very similar to Shaun, I had no male role models and found a great example in the proud and violent skinheads, whom everyone had to respect. But I later realised that I was going down the wrong path, that they would have led me to a nasty end”.
Meadows also commented on non-professional actor Thomas Turgoose, who played Shaun, and his effect on the film: “Through the honesty and harshness of his gaze, Thomas made the story his own as well”.