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Two teenagers, both newcomers to London, forge an unlikely friendship over the course of a hot summer. Tomo is a runaway from Nottingham; Marek lives in the district of Somers Town, between King's Cross and Euston stations, where his dad is working on a new rail link. The boys are both infatuated with the same girl, and pass their days bickering over which of them loves her the most. Finding himself homeless, Tomo surreptitiously moves into Marek's bedroom - but it's only a matter of time before Marek's dad discovers what's going on... Written by
Neil Young, Sunderland
Shane Meadows' new release, Somers Town, has received mixed reviews in the British press. The film has received criticism for its source of funding, having been developed with the funding of Eurostar from a promotional short to a fully-fledged feature. But beyond this, Somers Town has been criticised for being short, inconclusive and too whimsical in handling its grim subject matter. I would contend that although the style of Meadows sits rather awkwardly with the involvement of Eurostar, the film itself is a triumph: funny, intelligent and poignant.
Set in an area of inner city London near the construction site of the new Eurostar train terminal, the film follows the fortunes of two young boys from troubled backgrounds. Tomo, played by Thomas Thurgoose, arrives in London on a train from Nottingham, having run away from home. He never lets on about where he came from, and when asked he says that there is 'nothing' there. When Tomo reaches London he is soon set upon by a gang of youths. The camera moves uncomfortably close to Tomo and the bullying youths and the subsequent chase and beating set a dark undertone for the rest of the film. Thurgoose is superb in this lead role, cheeky, rude even, but charming and disarming a far cry from the youths who attack him in the film's opening.
Tomo crosses paths with Marek (played by Piotr Jagiello), a young Polish immigrant living with his father, Marius. Marius is working long hours on the building site of the future Eurostar terminal and Marek is listless in his absence, roving the streets of London with his camera until he bumps into the disruptive Tomo. The two boys, though from very different backgrounds, are essentially rootless, and soon become friends. Together they vie for the attention of Maria, the beautiful waitress working in a local café, leading to some of the happiest scenes in the film. They also help out budding salesman Graham, a slightly absurd and very amusing Del Boy character.
The dialogue amongst the characters in Somers Town is excellent, often hilarious but at times sad and moving. Thurgoose delivers his lines with a sharp wit and the film is at its funniest when the two boys compete for the affection of Maria. The darker scenes in the film, including the attack on Tomo and the falling-out between Marek and Marius, are believably portrayed and equally engaging. Where the dialogue flags is where the new Eurostar terminal and the accompanying ideas of travel and escape work their way into the story. It is difficult to disregard the source of funding for the film and it is at these points in the film that there is a vague whiff of product placement.
Nevertheless, it seems that Shane Meadows has used the creative licence afforded to him to re-work the original short film idea into a distinctive work. Although his film runs to only 75 minutes it does not feel insubstantial or inconclusive quite the contrary. The wistful, poignant ending throws light on the preceding film and affirms the themes of rootlessness, despair and dreams of escape.
With the wealth of Hollywood blockbusters and fine foreign-language films being produced this year it has been easy to overlook the films emerging closer to home, but this superb film has made me sit up and look for more British cinema.
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