Somers Town (DVD)

I don't quite know how to explain it, but Somers Town is just one of those strangely appealing little low-budget works that somehow surpasses all limitations and speaks straight to the heart. Shot in black and white or, briefly, 8mm film without sound, this movie gives us a glimpse of a crucial period in the lives of two young boys named Tomo and Marek.

Somers Town DVD

Tomo has appeared on a train from Nottingham and is wandering the streets of London aimlessly, and Marek is a young Pole who moved to London with his father (a builder who likes his booze) after his parents divorced and they are both in need of direction ... or just some money and a kiss from a pretty French waitress, either way I think they'd be happy.

The beauty of this film all lies within its simplicity. The two young lads begin their friendship exuding a persona, a societally demanded image that helps them survive, but by the end of this short film we really feel like we know them. How is this achieved? Just by creating real scenarios in which the characters, even the more strange ones, act in an entirely natural way. All of the drama feels essential, all of the joy seems real and the laughter is contagious and everything reeks of honesty. That it's shot almost entirely in black and white certainly helps by giving London the stark edge that's more often depicted through painful street slang of excessively stylised editing (yes Kidulthood/Adulthood I mean you), as does the bare bones camera and sound work which will prevent arthouse audiences from doing what they're attuned to and searching for hidden meanings and extra layers: a great device to force people to see the obvious.

Of course, I can't finish the review without mentioning the acting. Thomas Turgoose, who was so oddly frightening in Meadows' cult classic This Is England, shines out again as upbeat and cocky young scamp Tomo, and Piotr Jagiello provided that deep, troubled look more often witnessed in a Kieslowski film than on the streets of London. Even the subsidiary roles, in particular Elisa Lasowski as sexy French waitress Maria and Perry Benson as Mareks strange neighbour, shine when they're on screen. The bottom line is that this is a movie that's short, sweet, sensitive and insightful. A bitesize little hidden treasure that Meadows seems to have conjured from nowhere. I highly recommend you watch it.

 

EXTRAS *** Interviews with Perry Benson, Thomas Turgoose, Piotr Jagiello and Shane Meadows; the featurette Shane Meadows' Masterclass at the Tribeca Film Festival; TV ads; and the trailer.

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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