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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Des skins a fleur de peau

Skinheads On The Edge - Film Review

Translated Sunday 14 October 2007, by Helen Robertshaw

This is England, by Shane Meadows.

Great Britain. 1 hr. 37

Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) has just turned twelve in 1983, in an England beset by unemployment and reeling in the aftermath of the Falklands War, a war in which Shaun’s father lost his life. He meets a small group of skinheads who trail their Doc Martens and their straight-legged, cut-off jeans around the dreary and boring little coastal town in the Midlands. Boys and girls, scarcely older than Shaun, still have childlike imaginations and so are willing to include this solitary little figure in their group. The little boy’s desire for approval goes hand in hand with fascinating initiatory rituals. Until the day when a certain Combo (Stephen Graham) is released from prison. The tone then changes and each member of the group must make their own choice. They must choose whether to stay within the realm of child’s play or join forces with a charismatic and violent leader who finds his justification in extreme right-wing ideology. In the 1980s, this second wave of skinhead culture supplanted the first wave which had emerged during the 1960s and was associated with reggae music. Both movements united the young members of the working class who became more and more impoverished during that twenty year period. Nothing is simplistic in Shane Meadows’ film which exposes, using a rough grain film, the contradictions of the situation as well as the contradictions inherent in each of the protagonists. Filmed in a minimalist style, the characters and landscapes are always set against the backdrop of the broader political and social context while the individual dramas are carved out. The performance by the actors, who cannot all be mentioned, is to be applauded. Their performance complements the style of the film which is grounded in simplicity. The music - Do the dog, by the Specials, or Come on Eileen, by Dexy’s Midnight Runners – is also in keeping with the film’s aesthetic and finds its perfect place beneath the rain-soaked clouds.

D. W.

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