The much anticipated television drama This Is England ’86 airs on Channel 4 tonight – so to get you up to speed on the story so far, we thought we’d give you the lowdown on the 2006 film.
Set in 1983, This Is England the film follows thirteen-year-old Shaun as he is taken under the wing of Woody and his skinhead gang, who are all older and, naturally, much cooler. Cue an assortment of remnants of this 1980s subculture: Doc Martens, Ska music, shaven heads, all set against a background of unemployment, royal weddings and Ben Sherman shirts.
All’s well and good until the return of Combo – a former gang member whose stint in prison has instilled in him a multitude of racist beliefs and an allegiance to white nationalism. Some members of the gang express doubt over the extreme views presented by their new leader, leading to a hostile division within the group. Shaun aligns himself with Combo, perhaps for safety, or to seem tough and grown up, perhaps as a new father figure, or perhaps even for ‘England’.
Eventually, the extent to which Shaun’s newly acquired idol is prepared to push his beliefs becomes all too clear. Combo’s racist fuelled hatred begins to destroy the allure of the gang for Shaun, and tarnish the acceptance he had previously found in being part of the group.
The TV series is set to revive many of the original characters and cast, including Shaun who is played by Thomas Turgoose, and is one of the few cast members to look significantly older than the last time we saw him.
Joe Gilgun is also set to return in the character of Woody. Director of both the film and the upcoming drama, Shane Meadows, has given very little away about the project. However, he has announced on his website that the previously unemployed Woody would now be working in a factory, and about to marry his girlfriend, Lol.
In fact, it seems that this time its Lol who’s set to steal the audience focus, as Vicky McClure reprises the role of the gang’s edgy leading lady.
Other gang members who will be reportedly be making a re-appearance include Shaun’s love interest, Smell, as well as Gadget, and Meggy. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly for those of you who have already seen the film, Andrew Simm will also be making a return as Milky.
This Is England had some undoubtedly comedic moments, however they were frequently overshadowed by the film’s more violent scenes, and the racist language which landed the production its ’18’ certificate. The new four part series will reportedly keep its comedic edge, whilst also introducing several elements of the Scooterboy movement of mid-late 80s.
Shane Meadows has certainly demonstrated an exceptional vision for his story and characters. Using his low budget and grim-up-north setting to his advantage, he succeeded in creating a film inspired by kitchen sink realism which still appealed to modern audiences, and could be set to do the same with this four-part drama.
He’s also revealed that if the series does well, we could be treated to a further instalment of the This Is England story, which will most probably be set amongst the Manchester rave scene of the 1990s. We’ll keep you posted!