Life In Black & White

Following his triumphant examination of 1980s sink-estate Britain in This Is England, director Shane Meadow’s re-recruits his teenage star Thomas Turgoose for the contemporary follow-up, Somers Town, a minutely-observed portrait of youthful friendship set in an underdeveloped part of 1990s London.

Turgoose plays Tommo, a bright but troubled sixteen year-old who, for reasons we never quite discover, runs away from Nottingham to pitch up in Somers Town. On his first night on the streets, he is robbed by a gang of thugs who take his clothes and his money. Loitering in a café, Tommo meets Marek (Piotr Jagiello), a Polish immigrant teenager who lives in a nearby tower block with his father, a builder on the Channel Tunnel railway line.

The two lads are well met; Tommo is a talkative, cheeky troublemaker while photographer Marek is more sensitive and less certain of himself. With nowhere else to go, Tommo convinces Marek to allow him to hide in his room while his father is at work, or out drinking, and the pair form a bond through their shared isolation, boredom, lack of money and a growing obsession with French waitress Maria (Elisa Lasowski).

It doesn’t sound like much in synopsis, but over the course of his just-too-short 70 minutes, Meadows and his regular screenwriter Paul Fraser spin an affecting, unassuming story of outsiders making the best of difficult circumstances. Despite the bleak landscape, Meadows balances his theme of urban poverty and the immigrant struggle with customary earthy humour, relying on the natural, unaffected grace of his two inexperienced leads for semi-improvised banter. There could have been more of it, though.

Turgoose and Jagiello’s essentially optimistic performances are central to the film’s success, sharing a freewheeling chemistry that lights up the screen, particularly in their interactions with local wide-boy Graham (Perry Benson) and a long scene where they wreck the flat after swilling down their first bottle of wine. Meadows and cinematographer Natasha Braier present the story in glowing monochrome high-definition video with a simple, gritty lyricism that finds unexpected flecks of beauty in the corners of a city in transition.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Out of interest, John, do you not think it relevant to point out what the origin of this film is?

As much as I like the work of Shane Meadows, this film turned out to be just one long product placement with some good comic moments and a reasonable picture of inner city life in contemporary London.

I think that the tickets should have been subsidised if they want to hawk the benefits of submarine train travel to us for 70 minutes and I am quite disappointed that no review that I read beforehand played this aspect of the film up.