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Film Review: England Is Mine

9 August 17 words: Elizabeth O'Riordan

“If you have five seconds to spare, then I’ll tell you the story of my life. Sixteen, clumsy and shy, that’s the story of my life..."

The Smiths lyrics have long been relatable to everyone, as shown by NME naming them the most influential artist ever in 2002. Dealing with themes of sadness, heartbreak and general angst, it’s difficult not to find yourself in one of their songs. Despite this, lead singer Morrissey fails the neutrality test altogether. Worshipped by many and hated by others. His odd behaviour is often controversial and ambiguous.

The biopic England is Mine aims to tell an honest story of the person, Steven Patrick Morrissey, before all the fame and guesswork began.

Filmmaker Mark Gill presents a sympathetic view of the singer songwriter, showing the audience a world from his perspective, full of boredom and anxiety, fighting parents and a terrible job. Set in Manchester in the 70s and early 80s, his surroundings are mundane and grimy. The colour pallet generally pale and grey and the use of long still shots on everyday objects reflecting the slowness of life. With the additional feature of spiteful boys, throwing his notepad, shouting at him on the street, the opening shots show an unenjoyable existence.

The span of the film explores his friendship with Linder Sterling, his family life and short lived band with Billy Duffy. Despite this, I’d argue that the main focus is on Morrissey’s struggle of being different. Captured well in his bosses words

"Why can’t you be more like everybody else?" followed later by his own confession, "the world isn’t made for people like me."

Today we know it was this image as an outsider that makes him so popular but the biopic presents a more vulnerable look at this quality. The boy we see is awkward, stubborn and superior but also frightened, frustrated and constantly self-sabotaging. All he wants is to be in a band but his own anxiety is repeatedly getting in the way, leaving him stuck in a place he hates.

 

Gill took an easy person to dislike and showed a softer more exposed aspect.

The thing that’s most striking about the film is probably the intense feeling of panic and claustrophobia, shown through the close ups of his face and shots of thin corridors with no space to move. His own emotions constantly flitting between intense boredom and being overwhelmed.

The biopic overall is incredibly moving, particularly in his dark moments after the failure of his first band. Then in a different way through his mother’s kindness and his first real friendship with Linder, a pair perfectly matched for each other. Broken up further by unexpected comedic moments that had the cinema laughing after a long time holding their breath. I was really impressed with the films portrayal of emotion and techniques to hook the audience.

It did a great job of showing the sweetness and sadness of life for an incredibly emotional boy, isolated because of his social ineptness and superiority complex. Gill took an easy person to dislike and showed a softer, more exposed aspect.

As the film finishes at the moment of Morrissey and Johnny Marr meeting in the 1980s, it not only created an image of his pre-Smiths life but also showed an incredible investigation on how it felt to be him.

 

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