Somers Town, a magical coming-of-age film, directed in glorious monochrome by Shane Meadows, was criminally ignored on its first release. It is funny, sad and uplifting, but I guess people were put off by the subject matter. It is a film that deserves to be seen, and while it was never going to win major awards (it did respectable business at a few smaller film festivals), it deserved to find an audience bigger than the one it actually got.
Starring Meadows regular, Thomas Turgoose as the main character Tomo, the plot is fairly simple: it follows his attempts at starting a new life in London, away from the care home in the Midlands he has grown up in.
Things do not get to a great start: he is mugged on his first night in London, and loses his bag, his money, and everything. He then bumps into the Polish Marek (played with effective and heart-warming subtlety by non-actor Piotr Jagiello). Marek is also new in London, and lives with his dad Mariusz (Ireneusz Czop) in a high-rise block of flats, where assorted characters such as local salesman Graham (Perry Benson, who never descends into caricature but still gets some of the films biggest laughs) go about their lives.
There is also a tenderly handled love story along the way, but more on that later.
Seeing as this is a kitchen-sink dramedy, it rests on the performances, script, and dialogue to bring it to life. And they do this perfectly. We all know Turgoose is a gifted presence, but the revelation here is Jagiello, who plays his role so effectively, he doesn’t seem to be acting. [pullthis]He is a boy confused by the world of alcohol and adult matters around him, who has taken refuge in his little bubble of photography[/pullthis], taking pictures of the French waitress he is besotted with, in the cafÃ© where he spends most of his time.
It is in this cafÃ© where Tomo meets Marek, and this kick-starts the emotional core to the film. After Tomo steals Marek’s photos, the two strike up an unlikely friendship, the only real thing them having in common is their sense of being lost in a world they can’t fully understand. They trade insults, work for Graham in pointless jobs, and together, they fall in love, with the aforementioned French waitress.
It is this love story that holds the film together, providing the best scenes, and giving the two boys a sense of something. It doesn’t matter that they are, in effect, competing, because she has brought them together, and it is evident that they want different things: Marek cares for the spiritual, fulfilling side of the romance, and, well, Tomo doesn’t really elaborate on his feelings other than ‘she’s fit’ (although one awkward, funny moment sees him caught in the act of showing how ‘fit’ he thinks she is).
As I have said, it’s never going to become a massive hit, but I was surprised that the Meadows/Turgoose combination didn’t attract more people. This is the anti This Is England (although he does say ‘that’ line as a bit of a nod to his previous role, and it is plausible that this could be a semi continuation of the character). It isn’t the most commercially viable of films, but hot after ‘England’s’ success, it is a travesty that it didn’t even make a million stateside.
At 71 minutes, it is a short film. But it doesn’t need to be long. This film is a snapshot, a week or so in the company of characters we recognise different traits of, but are unique in their own way. . It is satisfying -sentimental but not schmaltzy, poignant, but not overblown â€“ a wonderful slice-of-life cinema.