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Published: 21 August 2008
Is this Somers Town? Shane’s back on track

Directed by Shane Meadows
Certificate 12a

SHANE Meadows is one hot cookie at the moment, and rightly so.
Made In England (2006) was splendid. And in Somers Town we get similar dialogue – Meadows has an ear for the ordinary, in the best possible sense. He tells it like it is, and he makes it very funny indeed. Somers Town captures an easily recognisable world, and it’s not because it was filmed in Camden, it is the skill of Meadows as a film-maker.
The film was not originally conceived as a feature – Somers Town, at just over an hour long, is like a very funny show reel, topped and tailed by an advert for the new Eurostar link to Paris at nearby St Pancras International.
The performance of Thomas Turgoose, who plays Midlands runaway Tomo, brings this film alive. He has a sense about him, from the way he meanders across the screen, kicking at empty cans along the Polygon Road, through to the joy he expresses in eating a greasy sausage sarnie.
He came to our attention as the lead in This Is England, and this just confirms his talent.
We first meet Tomo as he settles down on a train from his home town to London. Clutching a duffel bag, his air of hopelessness is pitched perfectly: this has something of Cathy Come Home about it.
In the short film format, we don’t have time to discover the family or home he has left behind, but you can guess from Tomo’s body language his background is not a happy one.
And that is one of the film’s smartest tricks – Tomo would have every right to have a long face throughout. Instead, every moment he is on screen, the place is lit up – he is brilliantly observed, funny, and shows an attitude that despite the world not smiling kindly on him, he’s not going to lay down and take it.
He befriends lonely Polish teenager Marek, whose father is working on the Channel Tunnel link.
They live in a boxy council flat and Marek walks his father to work each morning in St Pancras Way and meets him in the evening. Marek shows Tomo his pictures of a girl who works in a local café – a beautiful French waitress called Maria.
The pair then pursue her as they play out their sweet, adolescent infatuations.
Meadows was inspired to create Somers Town by his frequent trips from St Pancras to Nottingham and back.
“It was amazing watching the changes happening around the St Pancras area,” he said, “and the idea of making a film that was set in this period of transition was immediately attractive.
“It was the first film I have made in London and I wanted to try and capture both the familiarity and the strangeness of the place. In a funny way it has also become a much more cosmopolitan production than my previous work, with a cast from Poland, France and the UK and an Argentinean director of photography.”
Although it was first seen as a short film, he found the story and idea so compelling it had to be expanded.
He added: “The fact that what was conceived as a short film has evolved into a longer piece has made the whole thing a really rewarding experience.”
Meadows used the Ken Loach trick of putting his actors in a situation and watching what came out of it.
It means some truly brilliant conversations emerge, particularly between Tomo and Marek’s neighbour Graham (Perry Benson) who spends his time putting in and taking out junk from his lock-up garage, and flogging it on market stalls.
Through the creation of such endearing characters, Meadows has shown his mettle and his ability to capture the real voices of England today.

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