Dave's Rating:

4.5

… sad and fascinating …

Who's in It: Thomas Turgoose, Stephen Graham, Jo Hartley, Joseph Gilgun, Andrew Shim, Vicky McClure

The Basics: A 12-year-old boy in an economically depressed 1983 northern English coastal town, mourning the death of his father in the Falklands War, finds a family in a gang of skinheads. These are the happy, multiracial, ska-loving kind. But lurking in the shadows are the racist National Front ones …

What's the Deal? I'm not even going to count some of the more obviously After-School Special moments that happen here (racism is bad, folks; didn't you learn that already from watching Crash?) because, ultimately, this sad and fascinating movie isn't about that anyway. It's about how to ruin a child in a few quick moves and how tough-as-steel masculinity and all the super-rage that goes with it is a dead end in terms of viable lifestyle options.

I Like a Movie That Gets Period Details Right: And if you respond to nothing else here, then you'll at least love that about it. It's set in 1983, and it looks like it was made then. I was especially a fan of actress Rosamund Hanson, who plays a girl named Smell (other great character names: Milky and Pukey) and who dresses like a member of Strawberry Switchblade.

Based On: Director Shane Meadows' own life. Apparently he also got involved with Nazi skins when he was very young and confused, so the scenes with those guys are uncomfortably realistic. Extra points for viewers who get why there's graffiti for the band Skrewdriver on the underpass where the kids hang out.

Where You've Seen Baby Skinhead Thomas Turgoose Before: You haven't. It's his first film. And he was chosen specifically because he was not a professional kid actor (I get to read the press notes; that's how I know this stuff). In fact, he was already kind of preteen delinquent when they found him and, according to Meadows, demanded to be paid to audition. Smart kid.

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