Based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother, The Squid and the Whale tells the touching story of two young boys dealing with their parents' divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
Two bumbling store clerks inadvertently erase the footage from all of the tapes in their video rental store. In order to keep the business running, they re-shoot every film in the store with their own camera, with a budget of zero dollars.
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
One of the most charming coming-of-age films in years
"Somers Town" is one of the sweetest little films of any festival this year. Shane Meadows ("This Is England"), directing from a strikingly authentic Paul Fraser script, has crafted a winner with so much to like that it's hard to know where to begin.
The film takes its name from an area of inner London where the landscape is dominated by monstrous natural gas tanks and the construction of a station for a Channel Tunnel rail link. Marek (Piotr Jagiello) lives in the shadow of the humongous structure and spends his days shooting photographs of the area and trying to stay occupied as his father toils away at the construction site. Like many in the town, they are Polish immigrants who came looking for work and stayed. One day Tomo (Thomas Turgoose) appears out of nowhere, a boy Marek's age who is little more than a street urchin from the East Midlands to the locals. A fortuitous meeting between the two boys forges an unlikely friendship. Tomo is a tough punk (or thinks he is) and Marek is introspective and sensitive -- it's the basis for a character arc which is classic in the coming-of-age genre. We know where they're going -- how they get there is at the heart of "Somers Town." The outstanding supporting cast includes a sweetly understated Elisa Lasowski as Maria, the local girl who they both fall for, and the hilarious Perry Benson as Graham, who provides much of the film's comic relief (not that it needs any more than the boys already provide) as an eccentric neighbor who is literally indescribable. But it's the on screen chemistry between the boys which makes "Somers Town" the gem that it is. In a wise casting move, Turgoose and Jagiello, both 15, are the same age as their characters. In one scene where the two party a little too hearty, Meadows simply directed them to have fun and let the cameras roll. The result is one of the best scenes in any film I saw here this year.
"Somers Town" surprises at every turn. The film is shot completely in black and white save for the final sequence. It's a rarely used technique which, although unfamiliar at first, quickly falls away as the viewer focuses on the budding relationship between Tomo and Marek. After awhile we don't even notice the absence of color, for the story itself provides a rainbow of feelings. This device also makes lighting somewhat irrelevant, which allows a focus more on the characters rather than the look of the film. The soundtrack is simply a perfect match, with a playlist of tender acoustic songs that seems tailor-made for the narrative.
Everything about this film says "gentle and tender," from the friendship between the two boys -- what could almost be described as a platonic love story, to the longing the two have for Maria -- the object of affection who is always just out of reach, if only by age and maturity, and even to the father's tentative but loving relationship to his son -- in stark contrast to typical American films where the two would be constantly butting heads.
More than anything, though, there is no doubt that Turgoose and Jagiello carry this film on their young shoulders. Never have two young teens needed each other at this point in their lives as much as Tomo and Marek, and their relationship is so incredibly funny and touching that it had audiences in stitches and had me smiling from ear to ear from start to finish. It's no wonder that Turgoose and Jagiello each received the jury award for Best Actor here at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival, where "Somers Town" had its North American Premiere. "Somers Town" is a charming and funny gem with a heart of gold.
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