35-year-old director Shane Meadows seems unruffled by the burdens of being the current great hope of British cinema. “Somers Town,” his sixth film and best yet, is all the finer for its modesty shot in black and white and coming in at a neat 75 minutes, the tale of the friendship between two teens in the North London neighborhood of the title reaches for nothing beyond its grasp and is, because of it, just about perfect.
Meadows reunites with Thomas Turgoose, the fierce little thirteen-year-old he made the star of “This is England” after the kid demanded for five pounds in exchange for his audition. Two years older, a bit longer and leaner and at an awkward halfway point in adolescence, Turgoose is still an amazing find, brash and fearless and possessed of an expressive baby face and a irresistible laugh. He plays Tomo, a runaway from Nottingham who arrives in London with nothing more than a bag that’s quickly stolen, and who takes up with Marek (Piotr Jagiello), a quiet Polish boy living with his father. Tomo’s great talent is an untrammeled ability to impose on others, which he uses to cadge himself a place to stay with Marek, who anyway doesn’t put up much of a fight. Marek likes the company, even if he has to hide Tomo from his father, who works all day and spends his nights drinking with other local Poles. The boys spend their days doing odd jobs for a local, semi-shady businessman, stealing Tomo a comically inappropriate outfit from the laundromat, and wooing the older, amused French waitress at a local diner with rides on a found wheelchair.
“Somers Town” was funded by Eurostar the train service to Paris figures in at the end of the film. It’s an odd fact that, taken with the short run-time, would seem to make “Somers Town” a difficult film to place in theaters, which is regrettable. “Somers Town” doesn’t feel remotely like an ad; it feels, in fact, freer of burdens than any film I’ve seen recently, a scruffy and stupendously warm story of life in an unpretty part of the city with no lessons to teach or morals to impart.
“Somers Town” currently has no U.S. distribution.
[Photo: “Somers Town,” Works International, 2008]
+ “Somers Town” (TribecaFilmFestival.org)