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Top TV: This Is England ’88

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Shane Meadows This Is England ’88 was one of the most moving and emotional pieces of work on television in 2011. It caught up with the characters that featured in the original 2006 film This is England, and the previous series 2010 This Is England ’86. This series is set over three days, the 23rd, 24th and 25th of December 1988. We return to see how the repercussions of the events in ’86 are still having their effect. Lol (Vicky McClure), is being haunted by the memory of her actions and whilst trying to deal with her guilt, she is also trying to cope with being a mother. Woody (Joseph Gilgun), is struggling with living at home, working the nine to five and not being able to hang out with his old friends. The original film set in 1983, followed the protagonist of the aptly named, Shaun Fields (Thomas Turgoose), and his exposure to the skinhead culture and the neo Nazi movement. In ’88 Shaun is at drama college where he finds his relationship with Smell, (Rosamund Hanson), in jeopardy when his attractions are drawn in another direction.

Written by Shane Meadows and Jack Thorne, the series deals with some immensely deep issues including guilt, betrayal and depression. The scripts and direction present them tremendously well with an appropriate sensitivity that doesn’t trivialise or mock them. I think the unusual set up of this franchise is an aspect that gives it such an impact, as returning to the characters we already know and love means a lot of character development has already been achieved, so as an audience we are already invested. Similarly the stellar performances from the superb cast is another aspect that keeps these characters alive in your memory long after watching the film or the series.  One of which that remains in my mind is that of HBO’s Boardwalk Empire’s Al Capone, Stephen Graham, playing Combo, whose complex character’s depths are revealed in this series, despite his rough, tattoo covered exterior. Furthermore Danny Cohen’s cinematography creates such an atmosphere and encapsulates the bleak winter environment that these characters find themselves living in. The striking images alongside the soundtrack are extremely evocative and enhance the narrative tremendously.

Vicky McClure as Lol.

Vicky McClure as Lol.

I would highly recommend this franchise and with Series 2 still available on 4oD, I would suggest you start with the film and make your way through it. With the third and final series, This Is England ’90, having been postponed due to Meadows other commitments, it’s rumoured an announcement for this series isn’t going to be too far in the future.

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