“ Genre: Television / Suitable for 18 years and over / Director: Tom Harper, Shane Meadows / Actors: Andrew Ellis, Andrew Shim, Chanel Cresswell, Danielle Watson, George Newton ... / DVD released 2012-03-12 at Channel 4 DVD / Features of the DVD: PAL „
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I would say, it is most likely crucial that you watch Shane Meadows' groundbreaking film "This is England" before immersing yourself into the two gritty television series' that follow. I will try to avoid spoilers, but will probably hint at some key moments. If that doesn't concern you, or you have already watched it then proceed to read this review, and hopefully I can sell this incredible display of British talent to you. The raw emotion that the film drags out of you will be brought to the surface again, and be prodded and then have salt rubbed into it. I would not recommend watching them in one sitting, but you will be compelled to with the fresh plot and the mesmerising acting.
'86 brings back the characters you grew fond of (or possibly loathed) in the film in the opening episode that is based around Lol and Woody's up and coming nuptials, three years after the film was set. The film centres around Shaun growing up without a father as a result of the Falklands war, and while he is present as a teenager finishing school, it is important to know that he is not the main protagonist for the televison accompniments. This humerous exploration of life in Britain is a pleasure to watch, and you will laugh in the places you are supposed to. What you take away, however, is a harrowing commentary on thr monsterous manner of humans.
There is a reason Vicky McClure's character Lol is on the cover of the DVD; as she is at the epicentre of both. In the film, she is Woody's girlfriend, an elusive and intriguing character who is a scene stealer but doesn't have a lot to add to the over all story. Perhaps Meadows realised what an extraordinary talent he had in McClure and revolved the tale around her, or maybe this emerged through his script but she is the star and deserves the credits she has received as a result. She is engaging, and at times her character is downright unlikeable to the audience but you never resent her. You will feel your heart aching at what she experiences in '86 that explores her past, as a way of explaining her present. The continuation of this in '88 takes it to a bleak place but you never question the talent you are allowed to witness through her performance. She is of course accompnied through this with the undeniable talent of Joe Giligun (Woody) who shines just as brightly in his scenes. Without spoiling, a particular scene in '88 during Christmas could be used as his auditon reel for the rest of his career, as he tackles every dimension of the human psyche in one scene.
The dvd is a worthy purchase, however with the approaching realise of This is England '90 you can bet they will both be shown in the not too distant future on channel 4 and also are available on 4od. However, I recommend watching it. There are times where it will be behind your hand, and it will take you on an emotional journey. Do not watch to escape the bleak world we live in, as you will be reminded of it round every corner in approaches and you won't be left to be a passive observer. Meadows and his team are remarkable writers, that is undeniable. The ensemble that have stayed, and growed with this franchise, are a reminder of the talent we have in Great Britain who could take on the Hollywood giants that dominate cinema.