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Somers Town saved in the last four minutes
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Somers Town saved in the last four minutes

by Scott Rice - SGN Contributing Writer

Somers Town
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Have you ever seen a movie that had you on the fence through 95% of its running time? That's how I felt watching Somers Town. I was pretty sure I liked what was going on, but I didn't really believe until the very end. In fact, the entire film is saved by the last four minutes.

I wanted to screen Somers Town because I loved director Shane Meadows's previous film, This Is England, a challenging flick set in 1983 that follows the exploits of Shaun, an aimless youngster looking for a social set who happens upon a rather naive group of skinheads. The skinhead gang is more concerned with clothing, haircuts, beer, and girls than ideology - until their former leader returns from prison with a really bad attitude.

Somers Town is a London neighborhood near St. Pancras International Rail Station. Tomo (Thomas Turgoose, who was excellent as the disaffected youth in This Is England) is a charismatic, though ethically challenged, runaway from Nottingham, a former textile center best known for lace and slums - oh yeah, and Robin Hood.

Tomo befriends Marek (Piotr Jagiello in his film debut), a sensitive Polish boy who was dragged to London by his single father who was looking for work. Tomo promptly moves into Marek's apartment unbeknownst to Marek's hard-drinking, blue-collar dad. The boys fight, drink, steal, and fall in love with the same woman, a 25-year-old French waitress named Maria, all the while hiding Tomo under Marek's bed.

Somers Town is the classic coming of age tale told in a unique setting. Though lessons are learned, they are newly rendered in the director's refusal to end things in tidy fashion. Their lives will go on, and the boys may not be much smarter than they started out, but powerful experiences were, well, experienced.

The movie is about men and boys and falling in love and the reprehensible friend that you know you shouldn't hang out with, but for lack of better offers, you do. It's about how some people will change over time and others won't. It's a small film about the things that make us human - and I love small films about the things that make us human.

Thomas Turgoose steals the film as Tomo. Turgoose already impressed me with his turn as Shaun in This Is England, and he doesn't disappoint here. The two roles are vastly different, though Turgoose plays them both with a subtlety that somewhat blurs the line between them. However, Tomo is angry and proactive while Shaun is lonely and reactive. Regardless, Turgoose is excellent in both films.

Piotr Jagiello gives a solid performance as the romantic Polish émigré, Marek. He photographs Maria and then pores over the pictures reverently while Tomo locks himself in the bathroom with them. Marek suffers the drinking and absence of his father in martyred silence through measured facial expressions and body language. I'd probably be giving Jagiello a more enthusiastic review if he hadn't been playing opposite Turgoose.

Elisa Lasowski is wonderful in the small but pivotal role of Maria. She's really only there as a prop to get the boys' hormones flowing, but she is all French and beautiful and perfect.

The black and white photography is lean and haunting. The area around St. Pancras Station is shot with a loving attention to composition and an unwaveringly honest lens. It's like strolling from King's Cross Station to Camden.

I won't tell you how the film ends, but it is a simple, elegant, and meaningful ending that speaks through events that do not happen as much as through events that do happen. Somers Town is not as cinematically powerful as This Is England, but it is strong filmmaking with a talented young actor that's definitely worth a look.

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