Sunday, October 18, 2015

English heritage

(Warning: contains spoilers.)

It's safe to say that, with This Is England '90, Shane Meadows did it again - "it" being giving us carpet burns on our chins from the number of times our jaws hit the floor. How gutting that with the final episode of the final series we have to say goodbye to Meadows' colourful cast of characters - and the superb actors who portrayed them - for good.

The four programmes followed a familiar trajectory - the first primarily preoccupied with comedy, the second setting up the darker storylines that came to a head in the third, and the fourth offering an uneasy resolution.

I've never been a baggy/Madchester fan, but found myself swept up in Meadows' evident enthusiasm for the period, the culture and the music (one already evident in the fact that he produced Made In Stone, a homage to the Stone Roses). As usual, events were set against a historical backdrop (in this case, of pill-popping and Poll Tax riots), giving the series more resonance and clout than most dramas.

Meadows is a master of the unbearably tense set-piece, and the Sunday roast scene, in which Lol revealed the truth about her dad's murder, ranks right up there with his best. Milky's confrontations with Combo and Lol, and Lol's reconciliation with Kelly (all in the last episode) are also worthy of mention. It was also characteristically perfectly shot - plenty of grim realism but also some artfully lingering shots and a few hallucinogenic scenes that captured the characters' drug fug (particularly Kelly's damaging experience at the hippy gathering).

We were given what constitutes a happy ending by Meadows' standards: a joyous wedding between two of the most likeable characters, topped off with Kelly's return to the fold. However, it was shot through with pointed reminders that while Kelly may have found forgiveness, mercy and redemption, another character wasn't so fortunate.

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