Somers Town; the neighbourhood of London squeezed between the Euston, St. Pancras, and Kings Cross railway termini is the unlikely location and title of Brit director Shane Meadow's latest effort. I say 'unlikely' as it marks the first time Meadows has shot on location outside of his native East Midlands. It also marks his first film since the BAFTA winning 'This Is England'.
Sixteen year old runaway Tomo (Thomas Turgoose) arrives in London off the train from Nottingham to a beating from a trio of cockney kids which results in the loss of his bag and wallet.
Whilst contemplating his next move Tomo meets Polish immigrant Marek (Piotr Jagiello). The pair form a mutual appreciation society for the lovely Maria (Elisa Lasowski) a French girl who works at the local cafe and they turn their attention to earning some money to spend on wooing her, and finding some clothes and a roof for the potless homeless Tomo.
Granted this is not much of a plot but strong characterisation and Meadows wicked sense of humour made me wish I could hang with Marek and Tomo long after the films 70 minutes running time. The shy and withdrawn immigrant 'Marek' is the ying to the bare-faced cheekiness of Tomo's yang and together they make one of the more engrossing duos I've witnessed in recent years. Thomas Turgoose more than proves the praise he earned from his debut in This Is England was no fluke. He really is staking his claim as the most impressive British actor of his generation.
Almost completely shot in grainy black and white 8mm film, Somers Town has a look and feel that harkens back to the 1960's social-realism of Tony Richardson and Lindsay Anderson, and the more recent kitchen-sink brand of drama that has made the likes of Mike Leigh and Ken Loach so popular. The style and technique of Shane's craft is unashamedly cheap yet still manages to elevate the borough of Somers Town itself to a leading role. It's less of a departure from his East Midlands base than I initially expected. The fact that a film this effective can be shot in just ten days is inspiring.
Meadows has built a career on portraying the working classes with good humour whilst maintaining a certain grit and determination that comes with a life spent on Britain's council estates and back-streets. This Is England depicted an England in dissaray with racial harmony, but with this outing the coin is flipped showing a multi-cultural society where people of all nationalities and backgrounds can live side-by-side, and truly bond as one.
Already sitting pretty amongst my favourite films of the year the only thing that could possibly demote it is the believability of the relationship between the two boys and their muse, Maria.
My guess is a release overseas will most likely be limited to very few theatres, if you get the chance to see this film, grab it. It's only an hour-ten of your life, that's 70 minutes you won't regret. At least half of that you'll spend laughing out loud. Who doesn't like laughing? Anyone?