Saturday, 18 December 2010

Somers Town

Directed by: Shane Meadows,
UK 2008

It's kind of surprising that this movie becomes first one I write about here but I've just saw it this weekend and I absolutely love it! I admit I've been a bit sceptical at the beggining... The history of unlikely friendship between a runaway from Nottingham and Polish immigrant suggested another feature about alleged exploitation and abuse of East Europeans in United Kindom, something like Ken Loach's "It's a Free World", movie that despite being a Pole who for last 6 years lived on and off in London, I was not able to identify with and in which there was absolutely nothing I could relate to. Black and white images from first few minutes of "Somers Town" showing industrial surroundings of Kings Cross area and heading towards the station workers only fueled my uncertainty. But then I knew that from the creator of critically acclaimed "This is England" I should expect something much more than simple duplication of stereotypes.

And indeed,
The Edinburgh and Tribeca Film Festival award-winning "Somers Town" is an example of a completely different approach. It's a kind of cinema that I love most, simple stories about ordinary people going about their every-day buisness and just trying to live decently; in a way it's close to my favourites films like Spanish "Tapas", Argentinian "Historias mínimas" or Polish "Tricks".

The story of newcomers to London's immigrant working class district is a beautiful tale about a sense of alienation in
a new environment, about difficult family issues among immigrants, expecialy if they have left somebody close behind them in their native country, but it's also about the bond between father and son, teenage friendship and first innocent love affections. The plot is very simple: the film commences with loudmouth Tomo, ("This is England" revelation Thomas Turgoose, where he played the baby skinhead, Shaun) arriving to London from the north with no prospects and no place to stay. We're never quite sure what the back-story is surrounding him but he is determinated to stay in London. Within a night Tomo’s been beaten and robbed. Next day he approaches Marek (Piotr Jagiello), a Polish immigrant, whose father (Ireneusz Czop) works at the construction site. Two boys couldn't be more different, Marek is a gentle, simple-hearted boy that spends most of his time wandering the streets of the neighborhood and taking photos, preferebly of French waitress, Maria (Elisa Lasowski), that he's in love with and naively considers his girlfriend. Marek agrees to give shelter to Tomo as long as he stays out of his father's sight. Tomo's cocky behaviour would be unbearable if he weren’t so obviously lonely. Same as Marek who after moving to new country doesn't have any friends yet and spends his days alone, because even after the work his dad prefers to go for a beer with his mates than sit at home with him. Two boys become friends simply by hanging out, both of them fall under the spell of Maria trying to win her interest. But obviously it's just a matter of time when Marek's father discovers Tomo's presence in his house.

Homelessness, migration: this could have been a very doleful piece of cinema. Instead, Meadows gives us charming witty and touching coming-of-age film. It's genuinely funny and positive. The end the film seems like some kind of romantic fairy tale. But it's still truly human and realistic.

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