Friday, August 22, 2008

SOMERS TOWN - gritty humour undone by schmaltzy product placement

I'm a big fan of Shane Meadows' films and SOMERS TOWN didn't disappoint. It's a charming, laugh-out-loud funny story about a teenage boy called Tomo who leaves his no-hope life in the Midlands for London. He doesn't make it far from the railway station he arrives in - loitering in Somers Town - the area between Kings Cross and Euston. Despite being mugged, having no money and no plans, Tomo manages to survive, and even to have some laughs, through sheer bare-faced cheek. He sort of adopts a shy Polish kid called Marek and together they pash on a hot French waitress and earn money through some dodgy deals with a local Del-Boy.

Thomas Turgoose, the star of THIS IS ENGLAND, has grown up a lot but retains a winning mix of vulnerability and cheekiness as Tomo. Piotr Jagiello is sweet as his Polish side-kick. Meadows deserves praise for being able to elicit such natural performances from relatively inexperienced actors. As I said before, the movie is very, very funny, mostly because of Tomo's adolescent boasting, but also because of Perry Benson's larger-than-life wheeler-dealer. SOMERS TOWN also has some fine dramatic moments - not least an honest conversation between a Polish father and son.

My only problem with the film is its sense of unreality - the sheer ridiculousness of the fact that this young kid ships up in Camden and is basically taken in by a series of kind-hearted people. Even young Tomo can hardly believe it, questioning whether he'll have to perform sexual favours for his keep. I could almost forgive this deliberate "happy-go-lucky" atmosphere as an artistic choice, if it weren't for the final five minutes, all in colour, which basically serve as a sickly sweet ad for Eurostar. Imagine how good this film would've been if they'd have finished it as the two kids have their conversation on the balcony, Tomo returns to his polishing and they agree to meet up later......

He's definitely an actor to watch. SOMERS TOWN played Berlin 2008 and is currently on release in the UK.

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