*Please be aware, in true This Is England style, this post contains adult language and content which may be unsuitable for younger readers*
This Is England
When the gritty and daringly true-to-life This Is England first came into our lives back in 2006, we don’t think anyone could have predicted what a huge part of British culture it would soon become. Written and directed by the BAFTA award winning Shane Meadows, the film centres around the lives of a group of young Skinheads in the early ’80s who are all experiencing the ups and downs of their under-privileged lives. The film tackles controversial issues including strong racism, drugs and violence which give an uncensored view of working class life in the ’80s – almost autobiographical to Meadows’ young life in the Midlands. This tough, uncompromising realism along with the sincere and unparalleled acting in this film caused cries for more from the viewing public.
This Is England trailer – 2006
This Is England ’86
This Is England ’86 trailer – 2010
And so, the four part series This Is England ’86 was born! Channel 4 agreed to fund the series due to the huge response the film had received and Meadows was given the chance to put all of his unused ideas and stories to use and continue the coming-of-age drama. “Not only did I want to take the story of the gang broader and deeper, I also saw in the experiences of the young in 1986 many resonances to now – recession, lack of jobs, sense of the world at a turning point. Whereas the film told part of the story, the TV series will tell the rest” – Meadows on creating ’86 This time we see Shaun, who is implied to have distanced himself from the group since the brutal beating of Milky at the end of the film, coming to the end of his school life and facing the reality of having to make something of himself in the real world. He is portrayed as a more mature and wise character than we saw in the film as is now working in the shop of Mr Sandhu, who Shaun is seen to racially abuse in the years before.
A fight with the new bully figure of the series leads him to the hospital where the old gang happen to be looking after a friend; they are eventually reunited and more antics begin. Of course, the controversy that made the film so critically acclaimed is continued into the series and there are some very dark themes which create some of the most powerful scenes in British television. Perhaps one of the most dark being the introduction of Lol’s step-dad, who sexually abused Lol and her sister when they were children – this soon comes back into play and situations escalate to a level you almost don’t expect, even from Meadows. These are the scenes, however, that are the major talking point of anyone who watched, and caused such high viewing figures.
“The end of #thisisengland86 made me feel really, really sick. Which is probably what it was supposed to do, but I’m shaking all the same” – one Twitter user’s reaction to Episode 3
This Is England ’88
This Is England ’88 trailer – 2011
The bleak, melancholic theme is continued into the second series with the aftermath of everything that happened 2 years previously; Combo is back in prison and Lol is haunted by her visions of her step-father and is also faced with bringing up her new daughter, Lisa, alone. We see Shaun taking some direction in his life by going to drama college, and Woody is promoted at work into a more credible role. While there are still a few daft, sarcastic comedy gold moments, this series is again focussed more on the reality of life in the under-privileged Midlands – glossing over no harsh truths in true Meadows style. This has left some viewers wanting more of the original mix of humour and nitty-gritty realism that we saw in the film, after the gloomy feeling we were all left with after ’86.
“What started out as a bit of a jolly actually covered some of the most serious subject matters I’ve ever tackled in my life. It’s like a very f*cked-up nativity play. It’s about accountability and the consequences of events in 1986.” – Meadows on the tone of ’88
What’s next for This Is England?
According to interviews with Meadows, we won’t have to wait too long for the next (and probably last) installment of the award-winning powerhouse! “I always intended to do This Is England ’90. That was a banker.”, he was reported to claim in an interview last year which revealed some of his ideas for the final series, as well as some insight on which direction he plans to move in once This Is England is over. It was a little unexpected to hear the self-taught film-maker speak about how he’s always pondered the prospect of animation – “I always wondered what it would be like if you took Tomo [Turgoose] and Woody [Joe Gilgun] and got them to voice animation”. Can we really imagine an animated version of This Is England?! We’ve got to admit, since we heard the idea our little Atomic brains have been ticking, and it’s really grown on us!
Obviously, the thing we’ve all been trying to imagine most is: What mind-blowing experiences are we going to witness in ’90? Much to our excitement, Stephen Graham (Combo) is supposedly having a larger role in the final series in a baddie-gone-good role after finishing his sentence for manslaughter. This series will see the characters divided into two groups; the gang and the ravers. It looks as though things might be looking up for the lot of them, even Milky and Woody are sharing bromantic moments again, awh!
Shane Meadows – complete with scooter and skinhead!
Meadows has no qualms admitting his involvement in the ’90s rave scene and all things related – “the next really big turning point in my life was 1990, with the Hacienda, the rave, The Stone Roses, ecstasy, the whole shambolic thing” – which leads us to believe we’re going to be seeing some intense partying, the care-free (albeit slightly illegal) fun us viewers have been crying for after the unrelenting gloom of ’86 and ’88. Of course, the ’90s will be the time to shine (and sweat) for the younger cast, and so presumably we’ll be seeing a lot more Shaun, Kelly, Trev and Gadget!
We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait!