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Shane Meadows is in my opinion the finest film-maker in England today, with his tragi-comic, poetic portraits of the English working class. The prospect of a television spin-off of his movie 'This is England' thus prompted excitement but also reservations - there's certainly enough material for a follow up, and with Meadows' involvement, the quality can only be high - but sometimes a story is told and does not need extending. This series is set at the time of the football world cup of 1986, and there's already been talk of another one set in 1990 at the following world cup: might this all be too much of a good thing? On watching it, there are indeed odd moments when the series indeed feels flabbier, less essential than the original; and the occasional lapse towards 'Shameless' territory. But in the main, this is excellent stuff. Thomas Turgoose, the star of the original, is less central here, but still steals every scene he is in; but all the characters are great, including man-child Woody and Vicky McClure's Lol, around whom the plot rotates. The football link is handled lightly, and the final, Meadows-directed episode cumulates in a horrific portrayal of an attempted rape and its aftermath that is handled with an extraordinary grace (unlikely as that word seems to describe the depiction of such an event). Meadows' films aren't loud, but he cuts to the raw edge of human vulnerability like few others; this is easily the best T.V. series of the year, and an important alternative view to the received wisdom on the Thatcher era.
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