How much did I love both ’86 and ’88? …………..This much! (Although you can’t see me, my arms are stretched out reeeeeally far apart). Honestly, it was that good. I don’t know what took me so long, but it took the release of ’88 and its gripping trailers to get me to finally sit down and watch the film again, and then both series in one long marathon. (I have no social life it would seem.)
’86 brings back all the lovable characters from the film but steps away from the main racial, ‘skinhead’ storyline. It takes the viewers focus from the films central character Sean (Thomas Turgoose), and instead hinges around Lol (a minor character in the film), exploring a dark, troubled past, and buried secrets she struggles to keep hidden. It’s an emotional rollercoaster for sure. I laughed, mainly because of Woody ( played by Joseph Gilgun, the films comic relief and my favourite character) who is incredible in both the film and series, I cried, and I cried some more. It was gripping with moments that shocked me while being heart-warming, sad and surprisingly funny at the same time. I fell in love with all the characters and their endearing relationships; all of them unique but equally flawed and troubled as each other. Woody’s relationship with Jennifer (I think that’s the characters name :s they’re all fairly unknown and without a picture on IMDB and my terrible memory I’m taking a stab in the dark here) is the most entertaining part of ’88, a highlight of the series providing some relief from the grim, really heart-breaking main storyline.
I don’t want to ruin any of the series twists or revelations by giving you a breakdown of what happens (even though it’s the story that makes it so unbelievably brilliant) so I’m limited to what I can say. It should unravel and surprise you as you watch it so what I will tell you is that This is England retains the impressive quality of all Shane Meadows earlier work, if not surpassing it. It’s gritty, raw, and honest, highlighting a pivotal time and movement in British history through the eyes of a lovable group of ‘skinheads’ who you grow with from ’84 to ’88; and hopefully will rejoin again in a possible This is England ’89/’90/’91/’92 and so on??????? Take your pick. Just please please please let it be so. It’s a rare gem that in my opinion has raised the standard in TV drama. Every performance was memorable, from new comers who take central roles to established actors like Stephen Graham who turn up for one or two episodes. (Stephen Graham is a bit of a Bastard in the film but redeems himself in both series, where I just wanted to hug him and say “everything will be OK”. (That’s probably just me though because I love Stephen Graham.) Everyone is incredible and its beautifully shot with a soundtrack that compliments the film perfectly, punctuating key moments with a sparse use of a beautiful piano piece. Once you put it on you’ll be hooked!
If you want a taster then watch this clip from ’88. Its a highlight of the series and an incredible scene.