Like many I guess, I'm eagerly anticipating This Is England '90 the third mini serial sequel to Shane Meadows excellent 2006 film (which had been postponed by Meadows unexpected project, that of filming the reunion of The Stone Roses) so as a result I've been revisiting the series which commenced with This Is England '86.
Picking up three years after the original film, '86 sees Meadows breathe new life into his characters and setting once more. The transition from cinema to television doesn't - thankfully - mean a dip in quality, it feels like a natural step forward which actually builds on and in many cases improves the characterisation, with many of the supporting figures who were originally on the periphery now being fleshed out much more satisfactorily. Specifically coming to the fore this time around is the character of Lol played by the excellent Vicky McClure. Meadows has rightly pegged her as the mother of the group and creates a rich back story for her as well as placing her squarely into the serial's plot. McClure pretty much owns each scene she is in; it's a powerful performance that rightly allowed widespread recognition for her talents.
The action, set against the summer of the 86 World Cup, is as strong as you'd expect with the almost carousel like swing from bleak harrowing drama to laugh out loud hilarity topped off by nostalgia and the eclectic soundtrack of the time. Thomas Turgoose's Shaun has now left school and, with nothing but a place in the dole queue waiting for him, he is returned to the fold of Woody, Lol, Milky and Smell et al.
The villain of the piece this time around is Lol's returning father played by a chilling and animalistic Johnny Harris. With his Peter Sutcliffe beard and the subsequent events his character plays out, that of raping one character and the reveal that he serially abused Lol, his own daughter for many years, means that Harris manages to do what we would initially believe impossible - he's scarier than Combo of the original film! His pivotal scenes are difficult and uncomfortable to watch and garnered strong reactions on the original transmission.
Speaking of Combo, Stephen Graham returns in the last act seeking redemption ("let me do a good thing" he says during a key scene) and, in doing so, manages to surprise not just the characters but also the viewers. It further shows us just what Meadows can do with an opening out of the original action; he adds great depth and dimension to both the characters and the overall proceedings. But let's not forget Meadows co-director on this project, Tom Harper, who was behind the camera for the first two of the four episodes.
I think I'll watch the second sequel This Is England '88 again this week too.