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Thatcherism and the Irish troubles provide the backdrop for this study of Mick, a well-meaning youth in Sheffield, who has, unlike Dickens' Pip, no expectations. Mick lives with his parents, works on his motorbike, looks for work, and every two weeks gets his check from the dole. There are no jobs. His best mate Alan joins the army to fix tanks and is sent to Belfast to quell Catholics. At a disco, Mick meets Karen, who works at a shoe shop and lives with her recently-separated mom. Karen misses her dad. She offers Mick emotional stability and a route to adulthood; Alan pitches the army. Does Mick have a future? Written by
A battle to retain humanity in the desperation of 1980s Northern England
The low budget look and feel of this movie topped off by being shot in black and white gives a stark portrayal of the complete lack of opportunities for the young unemployed in the north of England in the early 1980s. This can be compared in some ways to "Love on the Dole", but it is even less romanticised in the way it deals with the curse of mass unemployment and the corrosive effects it has on a society that doesn't deserve it.
Two lads drift along in between signing on trying their best to retain their self respect and stay within the law. One of the lads decides his only way out is to join the army whereupon he is sent over to Northern Ireland. On returning home on leave, he exhibits the signs of having been brutalised by the experience as he talks with apparent relish about the savage treatment meted out by British soldiers during raids in Roman Catholic areas.
The other lad, Mick meanwhile has met a girl who despite having a job (in a shop), is troubled due to her parents having split up and her having arguments with her stressed out mother. When the girl decides to run away to see her father who now lives in Bristol, Mick decides to go with her. However, her father is now living with another woman and simply tells his daughter that she cannot stay with him.
On returning north, there is nothing new or different for Mick. The atmosphere of hopelessness is excellently captured along with the efforts the young characters make to rise above it. The result is what it sets out to be, namely a bleak allegory on the effects of economic recession and harsh government policies on people with no control over such things and little hope of escape other than being starved in to the armed forces in the same way that occurred before both of the world wars.
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