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Wednesday, Aug 8 2007
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It's a bit of a shock to discover there's nary a song by the Sex Pistols or the Clash, the bands who denounced Margaret Thatcher's regime most fervidly, on the soundtrack of This Is England. But then Shane Meadows' autobiographical film is set far from London, in a small Midlands town somewhat behind the curve. A bullied 12-year-old boy, desperate to be accepted by somebody, joins a band of skinheads in the early '80s. Shane's new working-class buddies are surprisingly benign misfits -- think '50s greasers, not neo-Nazis -- but the group dynamic shifts abruptly when their erstwhile leader gets out of prison. Much more than a scrupulous recreation of a pivotal summer in a boy's life, the movie draws parallels between the skinheads' violence toward immigrants and minorities and Thatcher's dispatching of ace paratroopers to fight teenagers in the Falklands. (Any resemblance to the invasion of Iraq is purely intentional.) A harrowing yet unexpectedly poignant coming-of-age tale, This Is England is sprinkled with ska, not Strummer.

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Michael Fox

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