Based on the actual childhood of writer and director Shane Meadows, This is England, on its most superficial level, is a realistic paradigm of the punk and skinhead movement that had taken over Britain by the early ’80s. As the main character Shaun, merely 12-years-old, gets continually picked on for his outdated flared pants, a group of older punks led by the kindhearted Woody takes him in.
Bearing the cross of England on their foreheads, Woody and his crew love and support each other to admirable extents. These characters embody the positive intent of the punk movement, as its origins in racial unity created open arms to all that felt misplaced.
However, this mushy place of punk drastically changes in the film when Shaun meets Combo, fresh out of jail and Woody’s ex-mentor. Dealing with issues of his father’s death on the front line of the Falklands War, Shaun finds something in Combo’s racist nationalism and extremist sense of commitment that resonates with his desire for a father-son bond.
Mastering the art of making a calculated narrative appear organic, even the film’s soundtrack is pointed. As reggae dominates the film musically where punk lives visually, a harmonious relationship is formed, recalling earlier days when punks and Rastafarians lived in harmony without color divides.
Characters come of age, break down, give into violence, fall in love, shave their heads and make and break loyalties; all while inhabiting one proud island and desperately searching for a little human connection. After all, this is England.
This Is England releases in select theaters Aug. 3.