This Is England ’86

I like Shane Meadows. Most of the time. Some of the time. I liked Dead Man Shoes anyway. This is England – not so much. The ending, the characters and the narrative seemed to have had less thought than was needed to make a well rounded film, and I was quite disappointed at the time.

A TV serialisation however, works perfectly, as I found out at a preview screening of the first episode of This is England ’86, here in Sheffield last week.

We catch up with Shaun, Woody, Lol and the gang about three years after the events of This is England. Shaun hasn’t spoken to the rest of former skin-heads since Combo nearly killed Milky and has returned to his life as an outsider – only with added guilt and shame. On the day of his last CSE exam, Shaun stumbles and scrapes his way around town in a series of near misses as his old friends travel to and from Lol and Woody’s wedding. Tragedy and coincidence bring them together eventually, and with a little help from Smell and her fancy of young boys, the gang are almost ready to get up to new tricks.

This time around however, the focus seems to have moved away from our old hero Shaun, and has us looking at the lovely Lol with a bit more interest – and this is a wise move. Whilst most of the original actors seem to have a bit of ‘East Midlands Stage School’ about them, Vicky McClure plays Lol with a skill that really cuts through all the bells, whistles and gimmicks of the 80s setting – she’s all heart. At the preview screening we were lucky enough to be treated to a trailer of coming episodes and I was very pleased to see that Lol’s storyline seems to be taking centre stage throughout the series – particularly her relationship with a Paddy Considine look-a-like father (was Paddy busy?).

Some things about the new series did grate upon me. Those Midlands accents come out a bit forced from time to time, the humour looks for those belly-laughs a bit too desperately and there are some anachronisms that draw your attention away from the action – but overall, This is England ’86 is well worth a watch, and I suspect it will become event TV over the coming weeks. How often do we get British television made with such pedigree?

This is England ’86 starts at 10pm on Channel 4 on 7th September, but here are some things to entertain you until you watch the first episode:


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