The working-class London of Somers Town isn't always a pretty place, but it is a loving and forgiving one. And in Shane Meadows' concise black-and-white film, the residents work, drink and bitch about their losing football team. Then they go to sleep, get up and do it all over again.
Teenage Tomo (Thomas Turgoose), on his own and spending his first night in London, gets jumped and beaten up by three boys, who take his bag of clothes and his money. The next day in a diner, he meets Marek (Piotr Jagiello), a young Polish immigrant who lives with his hard-working, hard-drinking and devoted dad. The boys strike up a friendship, initially over budding photographer Marek's pictures of beautiful French waitress Maria.
Marek hides the homeless Tomo in his bedroom. They got along great, despite their physical differences: Marek is tall with shaggy brown hair; Tomo is short and wears his blond hair in a buzz cut. They have one thing in common: They've both fallen for Maria.
Not much happens in Somers Town, the locale or movie. But director Meadows has real sympathy for his characters. His previous film, 2006's terrific This Is England, was a blistering portrait of young British skinheads. (Turgoose made his debut in the movie as a directionless boy who falls in with a gang of thugs.) Meadows keeps things more modest in the slice-of-life Somers Town, which is basically a coming-of-age story about two boys on the verge of manhood.
It's certainly a funnier and less weighty movie than England. It's also less substantial. But the leads are all good (including Ireneusz Czop as Marek's firm but tolerant dad), and the rich black-and-white photography underlines the characters' subtle desolation. The first-rate soundtrack, featuring original music by two members of London folk-rock band Clayhill, serves as catalyst to Tomo and Marek's adventures. Somers Town may not offer much hope for the boys' future, but for this brief period of their lives, things couldn't be better.