From the ridiculous (Rise of the Silver Surfer, which doesn't even deserve a review, it just gets shouted at) to the sublime: This is England wasn't released until April 2007 & easily picks up the Girl & A Gun prize for Best film of the year. I urge you all to go track down a copy.
Meadows consistently uses UK Midlands locations for his films, the kind of places that are locked in the never ending socio-economic free fall of nowhere towns. Here plumps for the pearl that is Grimsby in 1983 to frame the semi-autobiographical story of 12 year old Shaun (newcomer Thomas Turngoose, who apparently demanded £5 for auditioning) who's Dad has been killed fighting in the Falklands War.
Shaun falls in with a bunch of kindly skinheads, headed up by Woody (UK soap opera-favorite Joe Gilgun - I swear called Woody in this film because of his uncanny resemblance to Woody from Toy Story), and experiences a kind of skinhead golden age. Unfortunately for everyone, racist skinhead Combo (Stephen Graham) gets released from prison and the gang split between Woody's laid back liberalism and Combo's fierce nationalism.
Although the film is funny and sad, the tension is almost unbearable throughout the whole second half. It's like climbing a very long roller coaster without any way of knowing when the drop will come. It's like knowing a car crash is about to happen but not exactly when the twisted metal and flesh are going to come into your line of vison. It's so excruciating that I'm having to roll out thick slabs of cliché.
My favorite scene is the very ordinary one in the shoe shop where the sales woman and Shaun's mum conspire to get Shaun to agree to the more affordable sub-Doctor Martins boots. It's all in there for me - aspiration, identification, compromise, and, unless you're lucky or pig-headed, life being pretty much a question of settling for something approximate to desire. Plus, it's exactly my mum's tactics during that period.