Two young teenagers kick around the area surrounding North London’s mainline railway stations in the small but perfectly formed “Somers Town,” the latest feature by Brit helmer Shane Meadows (“This Is England”). Basically a comedy but with typically Meadowsian dark edges, it forms an affectionate tribute to cross-cultural friendship and the rapidly changing landscape known as Somers Town, a rundown warren of social housing and decaying industrial wasteland that’s beautifully exalted by pencil-gray monochrome lensing. Brisk (but just right) running time, among other factors, could limit offshore prospects outside fests, but Meadows’ name will guarantee auds domestically, especially on ancillary.
Having always set his movies in the Midlands area in and around Nottingham, where he grew up, Meadows breaks new ground here with pic’s London location. Otherwise, with its focus on working-class youth, salty-tongued humor, excellent semi-improvised perfs and thematic exploration of father figures and sons, “Somers Town” is completely of a piece with the director’s previous work.
Story opens with 16-year-old orphan Tommo (Thomas Turgoose, making good on the promise showed in his debut in “This Is England”) taking the train south from Nottingham on a summer’s day. As he explains to kindly Scotswoman Jane (Kate Dickie, “Red Road”), he might as well go to London since there’s no one for him up north. Underneath his cheeky manner and cocksure, streetwise confidence, it’s clear growing up in care homes has left its scars.
After getting mugged and beaten by some local kids post-arrival in London’s Kings Cross station, Tommo meets up with Marek (Piotr Jagiello, another find), a shy Polish boy who spends his days wandering around the area taking pictures while his dad, Marius (Ireneusz Czop), works on the construction of St. Pancras station.
The two pal up together, and Marek lets Tommo hide in his bedroom overnight. Script then unfolds as a series of low-key, banter-filled skits as the boys get some work hiring out deck chairs in the park for local character Graham (Perry Benson), jointly pay chaste court to a pretty French waitress and get drunk together for the first time.
Climax has tension and drama, but nothing on the violent scale of most of Meadows’ previous pics like “England” or “Dead Man’s Shoes.” Instead, final note is one of gentle uplift and makes sense of the film’s appearance in Berlin’s kid-film Generation Kplus section, although in quality, it far exceeds some of the films in this year’s competish.
Per filmmakers at post-screening talk, pic was financed by Eurostar, whose London-Paris intercity service and new terminal at St. Pancras station play a prominent role here. However, pic’s naturalism keeps it from feeling like a commercial for Eurostar, even when one character talks about how impressive the high-speed service is through the Channel Tunnel.
Tech credits, along with thesping and helming, are of excellent standard. Acoustic score by singer-songwriter Gavin Clarke hits right notes in every sense.