It’s taken longer than I realised, but I have finally got around to watching Shane Meadows’ 2010 TV miniseries follow-up to “This Is England”. Originally broadcast on Channel 4 in 2010, it’s a four-part series entitled “This Is England ’86”.
Co-written by Meadows and Jack Thorne (“Skins”, “Shameless”) the story picks up three years after the events of the first film and finds Shaun (Thomas Turgoose – “The Hatching”, “Eden Lake”) sitting his final exam at secondary school.
Elsewhere, meanwhile, it is the day of Woody (Joseph Gilgun “Pride, “Lockout”) – and Lol’s (Vicky McClure – “Convenience”, “Svengali”) registry office wedding.
Events at the wedding take a bad turn when Woody seems to have doubts and then Meggy (Perry Benson – “Outside Bet”, “Anuvahood”) suffers a heart attack and gets locked in the toilets during the ceremony, leading the gang to abandon the wedding and decamp to the hospital.
Shaun is bullied by Flip (Perry Fitzpatrick – “The Caravan”) to insult Gemma (Georgia May Foote – “Coronation Street”) so that Flip can be her knight in shining armour, resulting in Shaun being beaten and also needing to visit the hospital, where he meets up again with Smell (Rosamund Hanson – “We Are The Freaks”).
Before long Shaun’s mother has persuaded him to get a job working for Mr. Sandhu (Kriss Dosanjh – “Dirty Pretty Things”) renting out videos in his local shop, whilst Shaun has also finally reunited with Woody and the rest of the gang.
There some real humour at play here, particularly surrounding Gadget (Andrew Ellis – “Demons Never Die”) and his relationship with registry office receptionist Trudy (Hannah Walters – “Whitechapel”) as well as Shaun’s dealings with Flip.
Really, however, the central characters of this entry into the “This Is England” story are Woody, Lol, Milky (Andrew Shim – “Dead Man’s Shoes”, “Once Upon A Time In The Midlands”).
This central three find that their relationships are all changed by the return of Lol’s absent father Mick (Johnny Harris – “Black Death”).
Add to this the return of Combo (Stephen Graham – “Snatch”, “Blood”) and some harrowing events leading up to a finale played out against the backdrop of the infamous “hand of God” match between England and Argentina…
There weren’t many well known actors in this miniseries, but the performances really were excellent all round. Some of the scenes here, in different hands, could have been used to glamorise or sensationalize certain things. However, there’s no doubt that both my wife and I felt, just as with the first film, we were following these characters on a journey – taking in adolescence, sexuality, bullying, dysfunctional families and friendships – through part of their lives that was portrayed with a sense of realism that made this a fantastic viewing experience…