I watched the Shane Meadows film, “This is England” at the weekend. Partly because it was filmed in Nottingham, but partly because it was on offer in HMV!
The film is set in the summer holidays of 1983 – and is centred on a group of thugs – who spread across a spectrum of big softies to outright thugs. The film is ‘gritty’ to say the least. Shaun, the 11 year old star of the film is thrown into a world of drugs, alcohol, violence and girls… He must have been the youngest ever member of the National Front.
It’s really about gangs – and Meadows does capture the peer pressure brilliantly as the members lurch from one set of friends to another – and back again. As the line in the film suggests, “Run with the crowd, stand alone, you decide”.
I will forgive Meadows the technically incorrect 0115 code for Nottingham on a shop sign at the start. The code changed in 1995… I notice these sort of things. And the fact that Nottingham doesn’t have a beach (except sometime in the Market Square). We don’t have any sea though.
The film does show how the world has changed in such a short space of time. The fashions are awful! Boy George had a lot to answer for. The cars are incredibly angular and ‘basic’. The shops are all local though – not a Sainsbury’s in sight! Starbucks was to appear in the UK in the 1990’s.
Maggie was in power and we were at war in The Falklands. It was a fairly fraught time. Racial tension was high.
I am sure that some of the places featured in the film do still exist. We have moved on, but the film provides a stark warning about what happens when society breaks down. The feeling of helplessness was palpable. Broken families, drugs, alcohol and promiscuity and not great adverts.
We have, in my view, some challenging times ahead – we must make sure we don’t spiral into the sort of society Meadows documented so very well.