This is England ’90 Episode 2 – “Summer”
“We had a year of happiness”
Shane Meadows awarding winning drama continues with a skillful balance of light and dark.
Episode two opens again with the secret weapon that is Harvey (played by Michael Socha), with his laugh out loud comedy (“It’s a f**king bag inside a bag dude”) and his charming, charismatic presence that is difficult not to love. It could be said he is the new Woody, leading the new youth group on the convoy to a rave in a wood.
It’s the summer of love, rave culture is taking England by full storm and Meadows delivers sunshine and happiness. He shoots and scores for big bouncing laughs and is delivered perfectly with the support of Flip and Higgy (even though Joe Dempsies underplayed and quietly funny idiocy is far more effective than Perry Fitzpatrick’s more obvious antics).
However all this happiness feels sickeningly temporary, as viewers we are waiting for the inevitable turn and we are all pretty certain it is going to be in the form of “stuggling” Kelly. Chanel Cresswell gives a superb performance as Kelly. She was never a central character in the original film and previous series but it is evident that her character is the first to crack and will serve as a catalyst for the impending doom to face the clan. Kelly is stuggling with life with the cloud of her abusive father following her around. She tried to subside this struggle with a unhealthy dosage of drugs, alcohol and barely consenting sex with very questionable men. A massive praise to Chanel Cresswl who does a good job and portraying this difficult and uncomfortable material. We also see a surprisingly and emotional transition from Gadget who drops his dopey, hapless persona to a friend who tries to hard to reach Kelly but fails, this shows beautifully how Meadows gives his characters a new dimension.
It is evident there is a divide in the group. The youths (Kelly, Trev, Harvey, Gadget, Shaun) all seem lost and are struggling to find their place in the world. And the adults (Lol, Milky, Woody) all seems to play happy families by holding a family BBQ with under cooked chicken, ghetto blasters and arm wrestles. There some parts of that scene which I think were over played but on a whole portrayed what is seemingly a normal existence.
Shaun is the winner again for me in this episode, We can see that he is burying his feelings and is struggling to cope with his inability to manage his depression. There was a beautiful scene between Shaun and a 47 year old travelling hippy woman where he really opens up about the loss of his father and his difficulty in connecting with his Mum. It all feels so real that he truly is a lost teenager not knowing what path to take. And it is so easily relatable we’ve all had teenage angst so worse than others.
The descent into darkness is fast approaching, the happy nirvana bliss turns into something difficult to watch, with Kelly unable to handle herself, being coaxed into taking smack and subsequently being taking advantage of. The whole scene becomes uncomfortable to watch, Kelly’s pain and struggle is all too real – “Gadget, I’m a slag”. And this is all before Combo’s return which could replicate the result of a nuclear apocalypse( which we know is pending as he calls Lol expressing his concerns over where to live with his parole appoaching).
The only let down so far me is the portrayal of the aftermath of Combo’s vicious attack on Milky we have yet to see how this really effected him. But I’m sure there will be some sort of show down between the pair. “Summer” ends with an electrifying shot of Combo (played by Stephen Graham) looking out of his cell window awaiting his release.
With a sneak peek into the next episode “Autumn” it is evident that the darkness has arrived and falling upon everyone like leaves to the ground. Can’t wait.