Many contemporary directors would probably turn down the offer to make a short film intended to promote Eurostar. Luckily Shane Meadows continues to shine in his own league, and he turns this rather odd concept into another of his string of original and charming films. Working on the Eurostar project, Meadows realised he had a proper feature in the making, and Somers Town is the result. It’s a beautifully shot black and white movie set in the Kings Cross area of London, featuring the usual mix of Meadows humour and poignancy.
In the Shane Meadows canon, Somers Town sits somewhere between A Room for Romeo Brass and his early feature Smalltime. He proves again that he directs youngsters brilliantly and there’s also the bleak observation of people wasting their days away with hopeless, harmless petty crime. This film will draw comparisons with his most celebrated work This is England because it again stars Thomas Turgoose in the lead and features Perry Benson in a supporting role. Both are excellent but play characters far removed from the darker and more dangerous predecessor. Somers Town is funny and light, often at odds with the grim sights of London it depicts.
Turgoose plays Tommo, a lad from the Midlands who finds himself instantly homeless in London. He befriends Marek (Piotr Jagiello), a Polish teenager holed up in a flat all day as his father works on a building site. The two of them while away their days attempting to court a young waitress, earning petty cash from an eccentric neighbour (Benson) and desperately trying to find Tommo a new set of clothes. Marek also hides his friend in the flat while his father is out at work, and although he inevitibly finds him the outburst thankfully doesn’t spill into usual Meadows territory. As I’ve said, this film is fairly lightweight and easily the most accessible of Meadows’ films.
Fans of the director, like me, will love this. Anyone new to him may leave the experience baffled, finding him no more than a grittier Mike Leigh. I loved the film for its simplicity in exploring innocence, early friendship and first love, and there’s a fabulous soundtrack. And mostly I liked it because Shane Meadows just appears to go on following his own instinct, delivering film after memorable film.