Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In Shane Meadow's SOMERS TOWN, the talented Mr. Turgoose delights (yet again)

The kid's just wonderful: Over the past four years, Thomas Turgoose, the discovery of Shane Meadows' This Is England, has appeared in three films (plus one British TV series I've not seen) and has another new movie in the can. Blessed with a odd and funny (though certainly not beautiful) face, he's only 17. Yet he has made memorable -- by force of that face and a personality

that appears to lend itself well to whatever subject his film is tackling -- each of the three movies I've seen.

In This Is England, he was fresh fodder for a possible conversion to unrepentant skinhead. Yet things work out somewhat differently than we might expect. In Eden Lake (one of the best of the recent slasher films), Turgoose gives the movie its one extreme dose of humanity, shaking us up and moving us quite suddenly and unexpec-
tedly. Now, in Meadows' (shown at right) newest film SOMERS TOWN, this young actor (shown below) really struts his stuff in a role and a movie that lets him make use of even more of his humor, charm and off-the-wall characterization. He's a "natural" whose every moment registers as real, and while he may not vary all that much from role to role, it is already clear that he can work well and hold his own in films of very different genres. (This Is England and Somers Town, though from the same director, are quite different from each other. The later was written by Paul Fraser, Meadows' oft-time collaborator.)

Somers Town tracks the odd friendship that develops between two teens: Tomo, a runaway come to London from Nottingham (Turgoose) and Marek, a Polish emigré, (played by Piotr Jagiello) who eventually allows Turgoose to live in his apartment, though the two keep this arrangement hidden from Marek's father. They work for a very odd and funny neighbor (below) and fall for a older girl who works nearby as a waitress (see final photo). That's the story, such as it is, and so -- yes -- this movie is slight. But it is so winning, with fine performances all 'round that it puts a smile on your face for nearly all of its very short (70-minute) running time.

Mr. Meadows gets away with keeping his movie unusually light and sweet, even though it touches on not-so-light subjects such as violence and homelessness, because of the ages of his protagonists (early teens, they are are much closer to children than adults) and the short running time. Nothing is allowed to develop past the point where real problems might occur: jealousies, emotional growth and/or lack of it, even the question of how the two will fare just after the movie ends. Meadows simply stops, in media res, leaving us with that fond smile still glowing.

I suspect Somers Town's budget was pretty small. It looks it, though this is completely appropriate. Even the cinematography by the extremely talented Natasha Braier (Glue, XXY, In the City of Sylvia) -- this is her first film in black-and-white -- appears, deservedly, homemade. Meadow's movie is not the sort for which one bangs the drum too loudly. It's a trifle, really, but one that his fans (and movie buffs who seek out something different and appealing) will want to sample.

Film Movement is distributing Somers Town theatrically, in a limited release that begins today, here in NYC -- for a two-week run at Film Forum. In the weeks to come, watch for it in Philadelphia, L.A., Denver, Santa Fe, Honolulu, San Francisco and Berkeley. The entire schedule appears here. A DVD release will be forthcoming, as well.

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