Once again we are graced with the return of another instalment of This Is England, this time set in an era of many transitions; 1990 (Yes I am aware I’m a week behind). For those who have not watched any instalment of This Is England, first of all, what are you doing? Sort out your priorities. The series follows a group of young adults as they attempt to progress through a failing economy and crumbling society that has given up fighting over the remains of any chance at success. Starring Joseph Gilgun as Woody (Misfits), Thomas Turgoose as Shaun (Eden Lake, Scouting For Boys), Stephen Graham as Combo (Snatch, Gangs of New York), Joe Dempsie as Higgy (Skins, Game of Thrones) and many more. Directed and co-written by Shane Meadows, on the surface of of things at least, this series is definitely set out to impress and right from the outset it almost perfectly captures the culture of 90’s England.
In true Meadows fashion This Is England ’90 starts off with a gritty vibe and showcases some of the most important and iconic moments from 1990 just as his previous work did before. It has almost become a signature move for him and the entire team behind the production of the This Is England series. As expected the introduction of 90’s Woody came a début of non stop comedy. As fans will know, there is rarely as scene in which he is featured that isn’t side splitting. In its entirety there is a fantastic mix of comedy and dark themes throughout but it is Gilgun that really shone for me; delivering most of the comedy through his sarcastic and inappropriate persona.
However, we are yet to see the dark style that Meadows graces us with every couple of years but perhaps it’s in the post. In fact, as a viewer, I am yet to experience an unforgettable moment which I have with every instalment in the series so far but there is definitely still time and I will be extremely surprised if the narrative doesn’t become darker from this point on. It appears as though Meadows is attempting to ease in the audience and reintroduce us to characters that we haven’t met for two years. Allowing us to focus on the cultural and characters personal changes so that we may appreciate these ‘new’ characters later on.
Instead, the episode’s most striking characteristic was definitely the editing style. In many instances it was extraordinarily suggestive. For instance, the screenshot on the right is a conversation between Woody and his parents and at first glance it would suggest a devil and angel on shoulder scenario, when in fact it almost shows how he is stuck between his parents as they helplessly attempt to rectify his financial situation despite his age. As the end of the episode approaches we see another signature move from Meadows demonstrating some masterful editorial skills. The sudden explosion of drama and quick escalation of violence between characters comes the swift return of Ludovico Einaudi, a favoured artist by Meadows. With every peaceful moment gracefully placed over scenes of chaos creates a mix of emotions that may only be provoked by the best of gritty British TV. A fantastic end to an opening episode.
I was sceptical to watch at first as I was not the biggest fan of ’88 but so far I have been pleasantly surprised. The series has somewhat redeemed itself. I would say that I eagerly await the next episode but it’s already available so I should probably sort my priorities out and catch up.