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Somers Town

3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

Shane Meadows is a British filmmaker with no equivalent. At 35, he has five features and a host of shorts behind him. What’s striking about this Midlands storyteller is that he is able to explore the comic and tragic absurdities of small-town life in a populist, invigorating fashion, moving with swagger and ease from laughs to tears and back again. He is good, too, at extracting performances from youngsters. Brotherly friendships are at the heart of his films, including this latest, which, owing to its slight knockabout feel and running time of barely more than an hour, should really be considered his fifth-and-a-half.

Shot in black and white, ‘Somers Town’ is a slim whippet of a film that is set in the nether regions of King’s Cross and follows a friendship between two teenagers: Marek (Piotr Jagiello) is the son of a Polish builder working on the Eurostar and Tomo (Thomas Turgoose) is a lippy, vulnerable kid who arrives from the North with nowhere to stay. They meet in a café and bond over their admiration for a French waitress (Elisa Lasowski). They hang about the streets, nick clothes from launderettes and do wide jobs for a local odd boy.

Their exploits are as charming as they are casual; some of the film’s strongest moments are sequences that simply show us the fabric of this neck of the woods, set to a yearning acoustic soundtrack. There are some laughs – but the jokes don’t come thick and fast. The film’s portrayal of friendship is always warm and sensitive.

Meadows’s filmmaking has always verged on the scrappy, which isn’t surprising for a filmmaker who cut his teeth swinging a video camera around his neighbourhood. The rough edges give his films their identity. The same is true here, but ‘Somers Town’ is the first of his films to be made away from home turf and you can feel the awkwardness of this dislocation: an encounter between Tomo and local lads doesn’t ring true and the coincidence of Tomo bumping into the same woman twice rubs against a realistic portrayal of the city.

The film began in a boardroom: Eurostar initiated the film as a novel approach to marketing. It sometimes shows. But one shouldn’t get too hung up on the finances. Since when were most films not tied up in a complex network of capital? Here the product placement is more amusing than sinister. That said, you may want to close your eyes when the film lunges from black and white to grainy colour for a brief, upbeat Paris-set epilogue, complete with shots of the Eiffel Tower. It says something of the film as a whole: lovely in parts, hard to love in others.

Release Details

  • Rated:12A
  • Release date:Friday 22 August 2008
  • Duration:71 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Shane Meadows
  • Screenwriter:Paul Fraser
  • Cast:
    • Thomas Turgoose
    • Perry Benson
    • Ireneusz Czop
    • Elisa Lasowski
    • Piotr Jagiello
    • Kate Dickie
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