|Index||6 reviews in total|
Forget all the Christmas specials and seasonal 'bumper' editions of
your favorite shows that usually fail to live up to the hype. This is
the real deal.
In my opinion this is the finest ensemble cast to grace the small screen, offering us devastating highs and lows (cleverly, in some instances within the same scene) to send your emotional levels into overdrive. Vicky McLure continues her incredible portrayal as Lol, but bolstered by an incredible cast of English actors. Jo Gilgun, surely now part of the English comedy drama culture since picking up the mantle in Misfits is still firing out his deadpan comic delivery, tinged with a subtle cringing irony which is surely going to explode in future episodes. The haunting presence of Johnny Harris is still lingering in this show despite the incident last time, as the direction flashes on the verges of psychological horror. The rest of the flawless cast just shine without effort, and you wish you could spend all your time in their company despite the downbeat nature of the era.
Unsurprisingly the writing is assured, and the direction is awesome. For me though, It's McLure all the way. The performance of the year (again). Surely more awards are pending for this splendid programme and long may England live.
In 'This is England 88', Shane Meadows picks up the story of the group of young people whose lives he previously chronicled in a feature film and an earlier YV series. If I have to criticise this work, it's that it's structure is that of an extended coda to its predecessors; there's not much in the way of novel plot, and perhaps too many emotional "payoff" scenes, something Meadows does well but they have more impact when set at the end of a tauter, more defined story. But of course, such scenes are not the only thing that Meadows is good at. As usual, he gets great performances from his (mostly unprofessional) cast, and manages to make the bleak surroundings of working class England almost unbearably beautiful and affecting. This it top class television; but I also feel these characters, as brilliantly as they have bee brought to life, are now done.
STAR RATING: ***** Saturday Night **** Friday Night *** Friday Morning
** Sunday Night * Monday Morning
Picking up two years where the last instalment left off, TIE '88 catches up with the characters that were left behind from last time, with Woody (Joseph Gilgun) trying to settle down with a new girlfriend and angling for a promotion at work, whilst still trying to come to terms with the fact that his former love Lol (Vicky McClure) has given birth to a child by his best mate Milky (Andrew Shim), whose return will mark an explosive reunion between the pair. Meanwhile, Sean (Thomas Turgoose) finds himself in a personal crisis after enrolling in a drama class, while Lol herself is locked in her own personal hell, struggling to come to terms with what she was forced to do to her father and the fact Combo (Stephen Graham) is currently serving time for her crime.
This entirely unexpected latest instalment in the This is England saga came pretty much out of nowhere for me, and would, in all fairness, have been wrapped up perfectly with the last part. There didn't even appear to be any sort of publicity or build up to it, like there was with the last part. Still, with this all in mind, writer/director Shane Meadows proves there's still a lot of inspiration to be drawn from the source material, even if this feels, and was even sort of billed as, a stop off point between the last one and the allegedly explosive final part in the shape of This is England '90.
The dramatic dynamic is maintained in the driving force of the different plot lines involving the different characters, which consistently delivers as it always has. Meadows has, as ever, put a lot of effort in to recreating the bleak, desolate landscape of the Midlands back drop he grew up in, and the rough, hard bitten characters it bred. While there's plenty of flashes of light interspersed into the story, it's main focus is getting down to the tough, nitty gritty hard hitting drama, and this, at times, is pretty tough to watch. There's even an element of horror present, all of it psychological and more towards the end than the beginning, but just adding to the stomach churniness of it all that bit more.
While it's good that all of this is present, there just doesn't appear to be quite the tough, meaty chewiness to the material than there was to the last part and the film, merely feeling like an extension of the last part and the characters in that, like an update and a prelude to the next part. The narrative also loses it's flow a little, with certain dramatic plot developments suddenly abandoned here and there and never explored further, meaning the story loses it's substance a bit. Still, even if this is just a preview of what's to come, it's still an effective and powerful one. ***
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From creator, writer and director Shane Meadows (Once Upon a Time in the Midlands), this spin-off British TV series follows the brilliant film, and is the sequel to the series '86, but of course this is the Christmas edition. Basically, set in December 1988, we catch up with all the characters as they prepare for the holiday, or just live their lives trying to cope with the events in the past from two and a half years ago. Lol (Vicky McClure) is struggling to care for her baby she gave to birth to after the affair she had with Milky (Andrew Shim), and she is haunted by the ghost of her dead father Mick (Johnny Harris) who she murdered, and Combo (Stephen Graham) took the blame to be imprisoned. Woody (Joseph Gilgun) is trying to get over the betrayal by Lol and to build his life back up, including with new girlfriend Jennifer and a work promotion, in the process though he does have the memories lingering, and the return of Milky does not help matters. Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) and Smell (Rosamund Hanson) are living together, and he is preparing for a Christmas play he is performing as part of his college drama course, and he is getting close to co-star Faye (Charlotte Tyree). Also starring Chanel Cresswell as Kelly, Andrew Ellis as Gadget, Danielle Watson as Trev, George Newton as Banjo, Michael Socha as Harvey, Jo Hartley as Cynthia, Steve Brody as Woody's father Richard and Rebecca Manley as Woody's mother Barbara. The characters are still just as good to watch as before, especially McClure who is compelling as Lol, who has the horrible visions, the hardship of parenthood, and the suicide attempt, the story between Turgoose and Hanson is reasonably good viewing as well. I will admit that this didn't quite have the same grip as the film and predecessor TV series all the way through, but it certainly not a let down, it is a good alternative watch for the seasonal period, and it a most watchable drama. Very good!
The most recent (to date) of Shane Meadows's TV follow-ups to his hit
film THIS IS ENGLAND, THIS IS ENGLAND '88 sees the viewer catching up
with the gang some five years or so since the movie and two years since
the events of THIS IS ENGLAND '86. Sadly, it's the weakest offering
yet, and any interest generated in the setting and characters has long
since diminished thanks to a distinct lack of originality.
I love the original film and THIS IS ENGLAND '86 had some strong, compelling moments when it eventually got going. This one doesn't. Once again, we get the dreary Lol moping around - surely this woman is one of the most depressing ever put on a TV screen? It's worse than EASTENDERS! Meanwhile, Shaun engages in an unlikely 'love triangle' plot - yeah, we had that already in '86 - while Woody attempts to lead an 'ordinary' life.
Gone is the power and compelling writing that made the earlier instalments so special. At this stage, I'm only watching because I'm interested in what happens to the characters, but it's becoming a chore to sit through. There are still great actors here - Joe Gilgun is given some great scenes at last - but the miniseries feels directionless, aimlessly delivering scenarios that are just too familiar to make an impact. And Stephen Graham's screen time is way too limited - let's hope he makes a triumphant return in THIS IS ENGLAND '90.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is England '88 is the follow up to TIE '86 unsurprisingly and all
of the drama that left us with. This included Lol splitting up with
Woody, sleeping with his best friend Milky and getting impregnated by
him and also gave us background into the abuse that she had suffered at
the hands of her father.
She ended up killing her abusive father and Combo took the rap for it which resulted in him getting sent to prison for manslaughter.
Obviously this is meant to be set 2 years down the line. The first problem is that this just isn't portrayed. None of the characters really look like they are even living in the 80s and the late 80's at that. The main characters, Lol and Woody still dress like mods in the Northern Soul era. Combo and Shaun still dress like skinheads and the people that do seem to have moved with the times are hardly in it! There is also a MAJOR continuity error which I find very sloppy that it was left in. This occurs when Woody bumps into the old gang with his girlfriend and complains that he hasn't seen them all for "2 months"! Remember this is set 2 YEARS down the line. Lol has already had Milky's baby and is roughly 18 months old when we see them.
The actor who plays Milky actually tweeted just after the show aired and said that all of that dialogue and the fight was completely unscripted and improvised and shot in one continuous take.
It was an impressive piece of acting and drama. But why on earth would Woody get so moody if he had only not seen them all for 2 months? It is very obvious that he hadn't seen Milky for a long time, basically since he fell out with him in '86 which was 2 YEARS ago! This was a mistake by Joe Gilgun because the whole scene was improvised. However the director should have edited the dialogue before showing the film.
I am amazed that very few people picked up on this and the only reason I worked it out is because the actor who plays Milky tweeted that it was one continuous take.
There are prolonged scenes and an unnecessary voice over from a Catholic Nurse who Lol has confided in whilst we watch whether she has actually succeeded in suicide.
It is so drawn out but ultimately ends up being unrealistic because she has her stomach pumped and an hour or two later is well enough to go and have a cigarette.
The bottom line is that none of the characters are really likable, there is very little comic relief and it revolves way to much around 1 character only really - LOL.
It is too ambitious to even call this, "This is England" whatever year.
I give it a 6 but that is only really based on Joe Gilgun's performance which really is excellent acting and for the fact that the fight scene was shot in one take and completely improvised.
The story is incredibly bleak. Not in itself a bad thing. It just seemed to have no real merit and was all a bit repetitive and tedious.
More points have to be taken off for actually misleading the viewer into thinking that Woody had only not seen them all for 2 months instead of YEARS.
I'd watch it if you have seen the earlier film and series.
If you haven't then you won't know what the hell is going on and it definitely doesn't stand up as a one off drama without knowledge of the background.
I will never watch this again. Apparently another series TIE '90 has been commissioned. Unless it becomes a bit more relevant and the people actually do move with the times and embrace the music, fashion, haircuts, culture and mentality of 1990 then I won't be watching.
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