A touching story, brilliantly shot and acted and possessed of a unique charm and energy, 'Somers Town' is one of the better films of the year so far.
It mines what appears to some fairly unpromising terrain; the lives of semi-homeless and immigrant teens. But it is anything but grim and in fact turns out to be a surprisingly pleasing story of survival against the odds in working class London.
Some may accuse director Shane Meadows of drawing a veil across the grimmer side of high rise London living; looking back, much the same arguments were made about movies such as ‘The Commitments’ and ‘The Snapper’. They remain as irrelevant now as they were then. Not every working class story has to be grim, or angry.
The film begins with Tomo's (Turgoose) journey from Nottingham to London (via train, of course - see below). Though he is perhaps younger than many who turn up at major cities in similar circumstances, his is, you imagine, a fairly typical arrival.
Tomo has left Nottingham for unspecified but - broadly speaking - easily guessed at reasons and he has little more than a few quid to his name. In fact, his principal asset is, as we will come to see, an outgoing, naturally curious, attention deficit tinged personality.
Initially, things don't go to plan. Tomo gets beaten up and ends up in dishevelled clothes, without money and, the viewer can’t help but think, teetering on the brink. A chance at escaping the fate of homelessness arrives in the shape of Marek (Jagiello), whom Tomo latches onto.
Shy, introverted, photography obsessed and awkward, Marek is, in classic style, everything Tomo is not. The pair embark on a typical 'unlikely' friendship. Somehow, this is pulled off without a clichéd feel; it’s natural and convincing.
From an unpromising beginning, Tomo convinces Marek to let him stay in his apartment. Having wheedled his way into Marek’s living space, Tomo’s next move is to take possession of a part of his obsession with a French waitress (Lasowski) working in a local café.
Meanwhile, local wheeler-dealer Graham (Benson) provides a little work for the boys, as well as an eye-catching, authentic Londoner, comedic presence.
With these dynamics in place, the movie truly takes flight. It's inventive, with Meadows habit of encouraging his actors to create, contribute and improvise providing genuine moments of comedy and a rare emotional depth. This film brings its own kind of energy to the screen and while it is short and fairly slight, it really works; feeling as though it gives a genuine insight into how communities actually function.
That 'Somers Town' apparently came out of a short film project aimed at publicising the London-Paris train link funded by Eurostar makes it all the more remarkable.