Paul Cook 20/08/2008
Shane Meadows likes to work with a small cast and crew, tackling subject matter that's close to home for both himself and his actors making Somers Town yet another fantastically charming, witty and original film. Writer of Dead Man's Shoes and earlier Meadows films such as A Room for Romeo Brass, Paul Fraser returns for this unusually London-based tale of cosmopolitan young love and friendship.
Thomas Turgoose, Meadows' star-find for This is England, returns to play the young Tomo' who is befriended by Marek, a young polish teen living opposite St. Pancras whilst his father works on the renovation. Meadows' gets his grittier side out in the first 10 minutes as Tomo', a young lad from Nottingham roaming the streets of London, is attacked and mugged by a group of youths. Effectively evoking empathy for the character, the down-on-his luck theme quickly turns to mischievous opportunism as Tomo' makes no bones about meeting and greeting anyone that might befriend him. This comes in the form of Marek who is played wonderfully by newcomer Piotr Jagiello.
Supporting cast members are solid and serve as an effective platform for Tomo and Marek's friendship to grow. Perry Benson (This is England, Alien Autopsy) is notably one of the funnier characters besides Tomo as the wheeler-dealer Graham. It is Thomas Turgoose however who is in a league of his own at the moment as far as child-actors go and even in the short period between This is England and Somers Town his acting nuances on-screen have matured incredibly.
Playing the cheeky-chappy but with a depth and consistency, the tear-away turned actor Turgoose is now one of the country's finest young stars with huge potential ahead.
Somers Town, shot entirely in black and white and on digital video speaks volumes about its creators. Firstly, it cements Shane Meadows as a traditionalist, grass-roots director with a real sense of what true British cinema should be. It also suggests Meadows is still as modest as ever opting not for the big budget blockbuster type of film his credentials suggest he should make, but instead the character-driven, almost independent style British drama. Although the film doesn't have the now-trademark chilling ending that made Dead Mans Shoes and This is England stay with you for weeks to follow it's uncharacteristically happy ending is actually rather refreshing to see in a British drama.
Winning the top Edinburgh Festival award, Somers Town certainly has the critical backing to at least tempt habitual blockbuster-goers into a showing of the film and given some of the other films on offer at the moment wouldn't be a bad choice in any capacity. Witty, charming and refreshing to the last, Meadow's latest film is a prime example of grass-roots British filmmaking and a good old tale of friendship and young love.