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November 13, 2007

DVD of the Week – This Is England (2007)


A movie like This Is England is an undeservedly hard sell. Moviegoers have an unfortunate tendency to equate serious filmmaking and a classroom lecture – repetitive, didactic, and worst of all, dull. A “serious” film may be all of those things if it is badly made, but serious themes in themselves don’t preclude good old-fashioned entertainment value.

This Is England is a very well-made film of serious themes and strong moral purpose, and a very entertaining one. It has a good story, an appealing protagonist, intriguing supporting characters, a colorful period setting, and a compelling dramatic climax. It is frequently very funny, and is never dull.

This Is England is fundamentally a character drama, and writer-director Shane Meadows treats his characters with a sympathetic interest that invites empathy and affection. You don’t need to be English, or to know anything about Thatcher’s England to enjoy the movie, either. The setting and political particulars may be unfamiliar, but the characters’ emotions and motivations are universal.

The DVD release is barebones, a missed opportunity for a movie that offers so much scope for discussion (and a cultural-historical background that is foreign to most of its audience). A commentary by Meadows would have been particularly welcome. Nevertheless, it’s a title worth adding to the collection.

Original Commentary Track review by Helen Geib

Other new releases this week: Amazing Grace, La Vie en Rose, Paris je t’aime, Shrek the Third