Londoners on the Fringe
Friday, Sept. 25, 2009
With a running time of 71 minutes -- and that's counting the credits -- "Somers Town" feels like a sketch of a thing. But British filmmaker Shane Meadows shows how to make less do more; how to make a movie evoke things you'd swear were beyond its means.
Set in a seedy, lonely London that seems a world away from Madame Tussauds and Buckingham Palace, it follows the relationship of three outsiders. Tomo (Thomas Turgoose, the kid who stole the show in Meadows's "This Is England") is a waif who has run away from the Midlands to London. A strange spark of a teenager, he's about 51 percent innocent and 49 percent trouble.
Looking for a place to stay and friends to make, he meets Marek (Piotr Jagiello), a Polish kid whose laborer-father (Ireneusz Czop) has come to the capital seeking construction work. The third is Maria (Elisa Lasowski), a French waitress whom Marek has befriended and made the subject of not a few photographs. Tomo, who has already lost his possessions to muggers, hangs out with Marek and develops an intense crush on Maria. A compliant, gentle type, and no less lonely than the boys, Maria seems perfectly content to abide Tomo's pushy flirtations. And little by little, a strong friendship grows among all three.
Meadows, who made the powerfully disturbing "This Is England" and other films set in his home region of the Midlands, trains his lens on loneliness, young love and disenfranchisement. That's why we observe with pity more than outrage when hustler Tomo steals a bag of dirty clothes at the local launderette to dress himself. We don't laugh so much as grimace when he learns he has stolen a load of women's clothing. Meadows shot the movie in black-and-white digital, giving it a documentary, melancholy quality. "Somers Town" uses a bleak social backdrop to contrast the tender human relationships that flower on this unfertile ground. And the film moves you by showing the feelings between the narrative brush strokes.
-- Desson Thomson
Somers Town Unrated, 71 minutes Contains profanity, violence and overall intensity. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.