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Somers Town Review

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Arriving in London to escape his tough Nottingham existence, orphan Tomo (Turgoose) is viciously mugged. But his fortunes take an upswing when he meets shy Polish teen Marek (Jagiello) and the pair form a friendship built on goofing about and harebrained money-making schemes...

★★★★

Arriving in London to escape his tough Nottingham existence, orphan Tomo (Turgoose) is viciously mugged. But his fortunes take an upswing when he meets shy Polish teen Marek (Jagiello) and the pair form a friendship built on goofing about and harebrained money-making schemes...

Following the fireworks of This Is England, Shane Meadows powers down for another beautifully modulated study of young manhood. Centred around the redevelopment of London’s St. Pancras station, Somers Town charts the poignant friendship between an emotionally bruised Midlands teen and an older yet more naive Polish lad, finding skeins of magic in the ordinary. At 71 minutes, it’s undoubtedly a slight and brisk picture but, if nothing else, it should be lauded for adding different colours to Meadows’ increasingly broad and impressive palette.

Written by regular cohort Paul Fraser, this is Meadows through and through. The under-the radar blue-collar existence, represented here by Perry Benson’s alpha loser Graham Cutler (“from a long line of Cutlers”) who enlists the boys’ help in a sanding-down-deckchairs business and plants Marek in an Arsenal shirt reading ‘Terry Henry’, is warmly evinced, Meadows never parodying or patronising his wheeler dealers. There are also lovely comedic vignettes, with Tomo forced to wear old women’s clothes after his one jacket is ruined in the wash and the boys’ first foray into booze ending in a wrecked living room.

Where this really shines, though, is in its touching depiction of cross-cultural friendship. If This Is England saw Turgoose become a star, here the camera knows he’s a star, carrying the movie with charm, charisma and masked vulnerability. He is beautifully aided and abetted by newcomer Jagiello, who lends Marek a slight, simple innocence. There is also a sweetness new to Meadows’ work, the boys’ infatuation with a French waitress (Lasowski) shot through with tangible adolescent longing.

After years of documenting his beloved hometown of Nottingham, Meadows’ shows an equally astute eye for this North London locale, lensing the various housing estates and industrial backdrops in a gorgeous, crisp monochrome, poignantly capturing a landscape in transition. Much has been made of the fact that Somers Town has been sponsored by Eurostar, but it in no way feels like a corporate promo. It may have small-time ambitions, but the long-time smile it plants across your face is huge.

Meadows in a minor key but still a major delight; his improvised feel, sparky comedy and interest in the truth of youth services a story that’s both winning and winsome.