Friday, 12 September 2008

Somers Town and the funding is easy (Thanet Extra 29 August 2008)

With Britain's Olympians netting more gold than the lead in Leprechaun in the Hood, let's celebrate British talent.

Somers Town is the latest film from Shane Meadows, the writer/director from Nottingham who launched his career making shorts on a camcorder with his dole money.

He has since reached the heights with the Bafta and multi award-winning This is England which, as well as being a powerhouse movie, launched the acting career of Thomas Turgoose.

Then a 14-year-old scamp with no acting experience and a tough upbringing, Turgoose only auditioned for Meadows to get his five quid but he had a natural, cheeky presence, a talent un-processed by drama school, and - now 16 - he co-stars as Tommo in Meadow's latest.

Somers Town is a low-key affair, filmed in black and white in the area behind Euston and King's Cross, in London. Tommo arrives by national rail from the Midlands with nothing behind him but a troubled life in social services care. Lurking around the area he meets Marek (Piotr Jagiello), a young Polish boy who lives with his father, a hard-drinking construction worker. Marek is a sensitive soul and keen photographer who is smitten with a French waitress called Maria. The boys soon strike up a friendship to fill the aimless days, Marek allowing his homeless friend to hide away in his father's flat, while also getting them some casual work with a Del Boy-like character called Graham (Perry Benson).

Like Meadow's earlier films, there is a loose, improvisational quality that stamps the film with authenticity.

Turgoose's Tommo is at times hilarious but also deeply vulnerable. There is one off-hand comment he makes to Graham revealing the character's expectations in life: devastating by implication.While all the actors are believable, the film does feel less passionate and focused than Meadow's earlier works. It meanders like a short film that has been stretched to 75 minutes and it also could be accused of lacking plausibility in the last act which has a strange dream-like ending.

You have to wonder about the influences on the story when, as many have commented, most of the budget (£200,000) came from Eurostar, whose terminal features prominently and whose tickets to Paris are waived so lovingly infront of the camera. Let's be fair though, most of the running time definitely feels like a Shane Meadow's joint.

If Somers Town is less weighty than Dead Man's Shoes and This is England, it is still worth a look as it sparkles with British talent.

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