This Is England ’86
In what turns out to be an inspired move, standout British director Shane Meadows sequels his award winning 2007 film This Is England with a four part television miniseries set three years on in 1986. This Is England ’86 (hereafter: TIE86) takes up the journey of Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) at the end of his schooling but this time the intertwined stories of Lol, Woody, Milky and the rest of Shaun’s ex skinhead crew all come to the fore. Meadows brings to bear his idiosyncratically disarming blend of whimsy laced grit to a miniseries which delivers darkly dramatic story lines and joyous human connection in spades.
In lesser hands the transition from big to small screen could have turned TIE86 into a veritable cringe-fest, however Meadows’ passion and connection to both the content and the characters keeps this serialised sequel vital and fresh. Working with all the original cast (Meadows has long been a fan of developing relationships with non-professionals who have become actors through his projects) puts this production ahead right from the get go. The characters are not only recognisable, they are noticeably lived in having aged with the actors themselves in the intervening period since the end of the film. The filmmakers even have the luxury of kicking off the 1st episode with an excellent transitional scene with Shaun and Combo (an imposing Stephen Graham) using footage that was cut from the original feature.
TIE86, in particular, gives Vicky McClure (Lol), Joe Gilgun (Woody), and Andrew Shim (Milky) the opportunity to show their acting chops and they all perform very creditably. The blend of loyalty, love, guilt and confusion is perfectly pulled together creating a really excellent ensemble performance, resulting in the BAFTA TV Best Actress award for Vicky McClure.
Although it leans a little too much toward the comic relief side in the first episode – bordering on becoming cheesy – this is soon balanced out as the material slowly gets darker and darker as their journeys progress and the story-lines of Shaun and the rest of the gang begin to merge once again. Fortunately Meadows and co. retain the initial thread of humour throughout and manage strike, and hold, a good emotional balance for the remainder of the miniseries.
Shane Meadows and his merry band have created a great follow-on from his award winning 2007 film. I look forward to their next installment, This Is England ‘88 due out on Channel 4 (UK) in Dec this year and in NZ (via Sky’s Rialto channel?) in earlier 2012. Although familiarity with the initial movie is not a prerequisite for enjoyment of this miniseries I would suggest booking a time to watch the feature film – either before or after seeing TIE86.
NB: this series has an R18 rating for a reason; it broaches topics such as sexual abuse and murder. Please take this into account before viewing.
This 2-Disc Madman release sports an excellent transfer giving great picture and audio for you to enjoy on as big or small a system as you like. Special features include multiple cast & crew group commentary tracks for 2 of the 4 episodes and the usual slew of behind the scenes documentary, deleted scenes, and theatrical trailers etc. The commentaries are lively and engaging and the other specials of sufficient length and quality to keep most fans happy. All in all, a good DVD package.
Behind the scenes
2 Disc Edition
Region 4 PAL
16:9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English Captions for the hearing impaired
Reviewed by: Jacob Powell
Rating: 18 – Contains violence, sexual violence, drug use, offensive language & sex scenes.
Duration: 176 mins
Genre: Drama / English social realism
Director: Shane Meadows (2010)
Actors: Vicky McClure, Joe Gilgun, Andrew Shim, Andrew Ellis, Michael Socha, Chanel Cresswell, Jo Hartley, Rosamund Hanson, Perry Benson, George Newton, Thomas Turgoose, and Stephen Graham..