Is This England?

17 Dec

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Anyone who’s a fan of Shane Meadows’ work wouldn’t have missed the second helping of his spin off series this week. This Is England ’88 sees the young rabble two years down the line (in telly time that is) as they attempt to deal with the consequences of the last series’ dramatic events.

 The first instalment of this three-part series starts on a good note as we are taken on a trip down memory lane with the help of The Smiths and archive footage of protests, starving African children and the much beloved Maggie Thatcher… just in case we forgot how miserable life was back then. Still, it makes for an effective opening whilst reminding the audience just how very little actually ever changes.

Pretty soon we arrive back down to earth with a miserable thud… a thud that is actually the pitter-patter of tiny feet. Lol, now a single mother to a mix-raced child, whom we quickly deduce must be a consequence of her affair with Milky, is a far cry from the fresh-faced mod princess she used to be. But we forgive her. After all, she’s been through a lot. Nearly being raped by your psycho father, then having to stab him to death, tends to have that effect on a person. And as if to add insult to injury, for our heroine, now suffering from a triple whammy of post natal depression, post traumatic stress AND paranoid schizophrenia, the name LOL now seems all too ironic.

We witness a somewhat diluted version of Woody as he attempts to move on with his life with new squeeze “ginger Jennifer”, who… strangely enough is supposed to be attractive…but I suppose it is the 80s. Milky, although returning as absent father to baby Louise, is largely unimportant and spends most of his time mooching around with a teddy bear under his arm. Meanwhile, Sean falls for the co-star in his college play. Proof indeed that any man can be a two-timing scumbag, no matter how he looks. Still, this all seems pretty boring and irrelevant when we consider all that has occurred before. In fact, until its denouement, this series seems to go from one depressing inanity to another, and leaves it far too late to display any action.  

 The first sign that this isn’t just all disappointing filler comes in the form of Woody and Milky’s showdown, where we finally catch a glimpse of the destruction Milky has left behind. And just when we thought we’d got rid of Lol’s menacing rapist father, he returns via her hallucinations, breathing heavily and freaking us out just as much as he did before.  Then, just in case you hadn’t thought Lol had been through enough, episode 3 witnesses her attempted suicide and offers up the most harrowing scenes of the series so far. It is fair to say that when we first saw ‘those scenes’ in This is England ’86, we told ourselves we’d never watch them again… And yet here we are being treated to an encore during Lol’s stomach pumping ordeal. Still, as the newest series itself contains so little to make the viewer’s hair stand on its end, it’s a strangely welcome addition.

 Whilst This is England ’86 could be criticised for its pacing issues ’88 can be accused of hardly getting off the ground. Still, it serves its purpose in bringing estranged lovers Lol and Woody back together, and indeed enabling them to both participate in what is sure to be the ecstasy fuelled nights of This Is England ’90.

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One Response to “Is This England?”

  1. billiin December 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

    Loving your review! I haven’t seen This is England 88 and I wasn’t going to watch it until I read this. Sounds deep, just like ’86….the fight at the end sticks in my mind like glue. I guess it was a sad era. Great Jen…Queen of reviews ❤

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