This Is England '86 - First episode reviewed
Review by Jack Foley
CONTRARY to expectation, This Is England ’86 began slowly on Channel 4 on Tuesday night (September 7, 2010).
Hyped as acclaimed filmmaker Shane Meadows’ first ever television project, the pilot episode was, in fact, only co-written by Meadows and showed a lack of direction in places that deprived it of any real dramatic impetus.
If anything, it was a re-introduction to the movie’s main characters designed to bring them all together once again.
Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) began the episode on his own, celebrating his last day of school, yet forced to share an egg sandwich with his Mum (Jo Hartley), find a job and live up to his late father’s expectations.
Woody (Joseph Gilgun) and Lol (Vicky McClure), meanwhile, are attempting to get married, only for the former to have a sudden bout of nerves at the “I do” stage. Their big day is also interrupted by a sudden medical crisis for Meggy (Perry Benson).
Through an unexpected turn of events, both Shaun and Woody’s crew find themselves at the same hospital by the end of the episode… during which Shaun is reunited with long-lost love Smell (Rosamund Hanson) and implored to return to the group – an invitation he has yet to accept.
As fun as being reunited with Meadows’ characters and their dead end ’80s lifestyles mostly was, however, this first episode felt more like it was sewing the seeds than really hitting the ground running.
The humour was intermittently amusing, while the drama never really got going. Meggy’s medical emergency felt more like a plot device to reunite Shaun with the group, while Woody’s marriage day woes were well telegraphed from the outset.
Shaun, meanwhile, was often left on the sidelines… when you felt that the star of Meadows’ original movie would have benefited from a lot more attention.
That said, there was still plenty to admire. Turgoose performed well whenever the limelight did allow, while there’s a potential love triangle developing between Woody, Lol and Milky that could be very interesting.
The return of Lol’s father also promises to set off some emotional fireworks that Woody may not best be equipped to deal with.
As with the original movie, the soundtrack and eye for fashion are well realised but not overplayed, and there’s an energy to Woody’s core group of friends that’s often quite infectious… even when they’re behaving in less than savoury ways.
So, while this first episode of four has yet to reach the heights achieved by Meadows’ powerful movie, there is plenty of potential that should make tuning in for the remaining three installments well worth our while.
What did you think?