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This Is England

September 8, 2015

TIEI saw a matinee performance of this film and came out to the bar and spotted our churchwarden. We ended up getting very drunk and discussing this film in minute detail for about three hours.

The story centres on young skinheads in England in 1983. The film illustrates how their subculture, which has its roots in 1960s West Indian culture

The film’s title is a direct reference to a scene where the character Combo explains his nationalist views using the phrase “this is England” during his speech.

In 1983, 12-year-old Shaun gets into a fight at school after a classmate makes an offensive joke about his father, who died in the Falklands War. On his way home, Shaun comes across a gang of young skinheads led by Woody, who feels sympathy for Shaun and invites him to join the group. They accept Shaun as a member, and he finds a big brother in Woody, while developing a romance with Smell, an older girl who dresses in a new wave style.

Combo, an older skinhead, returns to the group after a prison sentence, accompanied by a knife-wielding moustachioed man called Banjo. A charismatic but unstable individual with sociopathic tendencies, Combo expresses English nationalist and racist views, and attempts to enforce his leadership over the other skinheads. This leads the group to split, with young Shaun, the belligerent Pukey, and Gadget, who feels bullied by Woody for his weight, choosing Combo over Woody’s apolitical gang.

Shaun finds a mentor figure in Combo, who in turn is impressed by and identifies with Shaun. Shaun goes with Combo’s group to a white nationalist meeting. After Pukey expresses doubt over their racist and nationalistic politics, Combo throws him out of the group and sends him back to Woody. The gang then engages in racist antagonism of, among others, shopkeeper Mr. Sandhu, an Indian man who had previously banned Shaun from his shop.

Combo becomes depressed after Lol, Woody’s girlfriend, rejects him when he admits that he has loved her since they had sex years before. To console himself, Combo buys cannabis from Milky, the only black skinhead in Woody’s gang. During a party, Combo and Milky bond while intoxicated, but Combo becomes increasingly jealous when Milky shares details of his many relatives and comfortable family life. Enraged, Combo beats Milky into a coma while Banjo holds down Shaun, who watches in horror. When Banjo desires to hit Milky as well, Combo violently beats him and evicts him from the apartment. Horrified at what he has done, Combo weeps over Milky’s body. Shaun and Combo later take Milky to a nearby hospital.

The film cuts forward to Shaun in his room brooding about what has happened, with his mother Cynthia assuring Shaun that Milky will be all right. Shaun is then shown walking near the beach and throwing his Saint George Flag, a gift from Combo, into the sea.

The film is set against the backdrop of the Falklands war which for many at the time became a central point of nationalism as Britian was being seriously challenged by a dictator who had invaded British sovereign territory. Whilst many opposed the war it is noticeable  that in this  film the  young people just didn’t care.  for them it was something happening thousands of miles away  and that made no difference to their lives whether Britain won or lost. It was only Thomas Turgoose who became upset because his father had been killed in the struggle. The nationalism of the National Front member Combo and the rest of the National Front people represented weren’t concerned about the war either. If anything for them the nationalism of the war which demanded unity in the face of the enemy was a danger to their own brand of racist nationalism.

TIE 2Lenny: Some people say we’re racists.We’re not racists. We’re realists.Some people call us Nazis.We’re not Nazis.No, what we are, we are nationalists and there’s a reason people try to pigeonhole us like this.And that is because of one word, gentlemen.- Fear.

Shaun: [Milky is bloody and unconscious] Oh, Combo, what have you done to ‘im?

Combo: Men don’t cry! Remember, men don’t cry!

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