Commenting on the critics with Simon Columb…
Euan Ferguson writes in The Observer about the recent TV and, crucially, the outstanding This Is England ’88:
“Tellingly, I thought, the hugs said it all. When members of the old bunch hugged, even after estrangement, it was real. When Woody and new girl Jen tried to group-hug the dreadful boss Mr Squires and his new woman, after an increasingly drunken ‘bonding’ meal at Christmas – yes, it was set at Christmas, and a far truer one than you’ll see depicted elsewhere in the next week – glasses and chairs and napkins got all in the way; it couldn’t have been more excruciatingly, wittily stilted. When Woody and Lol hugged at the end, apparently reunited, it was very real. This was all phenomenal, partly because you feel the actors thoroughly love and suffer with their deeply etched characters. Roll on their next story, and thus the next chapter in the story of all our lives.“
I absolutely adored the film, writing about the Brit-Realism of This Is England myself back in 2010. Therefore I became incredibly excited about the first series, titled This Is England ’86. The initial series provided many stories, and many characters, each with their own issues. Amongst the interesting characters though, remained characters who were less-than engaging – Gadget and his own storyline as he fell for an older woman and moped-riders who were almost comical in their bullying of our favourite foul-mouthed schoolboy Shaun (Thomas Turgoose).
This Is England ’88 on the other hand is much stronger than its predecessor. Focussing almost solely on the three characters of Lol (Vicky McClure), Woody (Joe Gilgun) and Shaun, we see tragic and differing ideas on acceptance, loss and – most importantly – forgiveness. Forgiveness, as a concept, is something truly complex and something that Shane Meadows and Jack Thorne manage to balance perfectly within the context of Christmas. Ferguson writes about the ‘hugs’ between characters, and I believe that these hugs are so real and moving because forgiveness is rarely depicted on TV – or at least, it is rarely tackled with such brutal truth and honesty.