Folks, "This is England," Shane Meadows' latest and greatest film, is the one to watch this weekend, "smart and immensely satisying," as I recently wrote at Tomorrow Unlimited, "as sharp-witted and edgy as it is entertaining and poignant."
I've had my ups and towns with Meadows over the years: I thought his popular festival short "Where's the Money, Ronnie?" was overrated and "Trainspotting"-derivative, and I actually despised his stylish breakthrough debut "TwentyFourSeven." But then something happened with "A Room for Romeo Brass," the filmmaker's move to a substantive semi-autobiographical milleu that felt honest and affecting, with beautifully rendered and compelling performances. When the film came out in the U.S., I jumped at the chance at interviewing Meadows for indieWIRE (here's a link), because I thought he had grown enormously as a filmmaker and wanted to learn how that happened. (His last feature "Dead Man's Shoes" was a slight setback, but it also showed Meadows trying out new things, and like any good filmmaker, learning what he does and doesn't do well. I'd say that Meadows, the chronicler of brutal violence, is less savvy and successful when leaving his personal history for genre elements.)
With "This is England," Meadows' development continues, both in his social and political insights (the film is a not-so-veiled attack against unneccessary imperialist wars and dunderheaded nationalism) and in his deftness of character and direction of actors (pint-sized powerhouse Thomas Turgoose is a revelation, as is Stephen Graham). In the old days of indiedom, it would seem to me that "This is England" would be one of those small movies picked up by a major indie distributor and given a long and healthy summer release. As it is, IFC First Take is unveiling it on video-on-demand and a few theaters around the country. Whatever way it's available, check it out: You won't be disappointed.