At its best a winning anecdote of adolescent male awkwardness adapting to the big city, Shane Meadows’s Somers Town follows its pair of “idle” youths through their energetic trial-and-error application of the undervalued skills of layabout, romeo, and artist. Thomas Turgoose, impish star of Meadows’s curiously overpraised juvenile skinhead remembrance This Is England, is Tomo, a tracksuited Midlands lad who is almost immediately beaten and robbed by teenage yobs after running off to London. Penniless but determined to stay (he replies to an adult who offers only to pay for his return to Nottingham, “Can I pretend it’s for a train ticket?”), Tomo bunks with newfound Polish immigrant friend Marek (Piotr Jagiello), who’s so anxious to hide the guest from his construction-worker dad (Ireneusz Czop) that he’ll only provide his English pal with a plastic bag to take a crap in. Both boys cultivate and peacefully share the chaste affections of shutterbug Marek’s muse, a Parisian waitress (Elisa Lasowski); are regularly enlisted for odd jobs (like renting beach chairs in a windy park) by an enterprising neighbor; and have mixed results when getting rip-roaringly drunk on wine intended for their love object, or pinching a laundry bag to clothe Tomo (in a flowered frock/plaid trousers ensemble, he mutters, “I feel like a female golfer”). Frequent Meadows collaborator Paul Fraser’s script adds up to little more than a shaggy 70-minute tour of Ken Loachland without the life-turning crises and agitprop, in tone pitched somewhere between Jarmusch and a half-pint Laurel & Hardy feature. Jagiello has something of the deadpan, dweebish sensitivity of Jean-Pierre Léaud, and Turgoose’s more cocksure, lispy doughboy is a natural comedic lout. That the black-and-white grit of the immigrant, working-class milieu gives way to a finale of grainy color wish-fulfillment is no big surprise, but still looks like feel-good pandering when one recalls the early scene of Marek and his dad exchanging newly learned English profanities at the kitchen sink.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.