Last year Shane Meadows easily placed himself in CF top-10 history with This is England, a grim but funny tale of 80s skinheads, lead by a stunning performance by a young Thomas Turgoose. This time Meadows returns with a film charting the friendship between a young lad from Nottingham down on his luck in that London (Turgoose) and a Polish boy whose father’s working on the Channel tunnel (Piotr Jagiello). Pretentious reviewers wet themselves in excitement - it’s black and white AND features some subtitles. Bonza! But sadly Cinemafool in all its wisdom notes that Meadows has stumbled, missing the “glorious film mark” by a long shot, and bashing “and your point was…?” territory with an unexpected clunk.
Somers Town is an elongated version of a short film Meadows created, funded by Eurostar. Essentially it’s an advert made into a feature. Not a great starting platform. The thing with shorts is, you don’t really have to make them have a massive point. You can do some arty farty stuff, throw in some scenarios, chuck in a bit of a message maybe, and bish bash bosh you’ve got a short. No need to do much character progression or fleshing, no need to funnel the plot into an absorbing arc. If something worked as a short, adding in extra scenes or longer walking montages with mellow soundtracks does not a feature make (so the saying goes).
So Somers Town is a glowing disappointment. Characters are gloriously under-developed (we don’t have to be told everything, but an inkling of where they’re coming from would be nice), plot lines are sparse and unimaginative (boys like French waitress… they hang out… um…) and the film somehow manages to make 71 minutes last twice as long. Plus there’s a rather creepy “friendship” between the lads and the object of their affection. An older woman liking a younger guy? Hmm…
Turgoose is, despite looking like he might beat you for your mobile, a growing star, much of the film carried on his squinting expression. There are laughs to be had, often from improvisation, but Turgoose seems to quash the personality of his co-star, who only really comes to light during a heated debate with his father, which is sadly lost a little in translation.
Somers Town is surprisingly flat, pretty much pointless, and only the few sparks of humour created by Turgoose’s performance can save it sinking any lower than a CF-1. How can you fall from a CF Top-10 to an under-achiever? Somers Town shows you the way.