If one can adjust their film appreciation antennae to an experience of mood over plot, Shane Meadows's "Somers Town" satisfies nicely as a humble contribution of comedy and drama. A verite touch of observation, "Somers Town" is kind and airy, a perfect cinematic meal for someone in need of small pleasures, explored through Meadows's undeniable taste in locations and near-masterful work with actors.
Teenaged Tomo (Thomas Turgoose) has escaped life in the Midlands, sneaking into London to make a home for himself. Greeted with a beating and mugging, Tomo hunts for shelter, instead finding the company of Polish immigrant Marek (Pitor Jagiello), a shy teen raised by a loving father. The two strike up a friendship energized by Tomo's delinquent habits and Marek's crush, a friendly French waitress named Maria (Eliza Lasowski). Bombing around their home base of Somers Town, Tomo and Marek develop a sense of trust as they encounter friends and foes, looking to make a few pounds while planning out a brighter future.
Developed from a short film idea, "Somers Town" has the structure of a few random thoughts on life and love thinly strung together, barely filling up the film's 65-minute running time. Of course, it's not the structure of the picture that's meant to be compelling, it's the manner Meadows pulls something engaging out of seemingly nothing, making a day-in-the-life of two teenagers enjoyably informed with sublime instances of behavior and introspection, replacing the art of rigid drama with the joy of impetuous response.
Throughout his career, Meadows has proven himself a miracle man with actors, able to extract enthralling emotional sincerity out of both professional and amateur actors. The gift comes in handy with "Somers Town," which relies almost entirely on the timing and depth of two untested actors, with Turgoose the veteran of the duo, having working with the director in his 2006 film, "This is England."
The boys make for a fine pair of strangers slowly warming up to each other, looking for trouble around the hectic community. Their adventures are primarily centered on the obsession with Maria and Tomo's various clothing disasters, offering the leads ample opportunity to bounce improvisations off each other and embrace the irrational nature of the adolescent mind. Further humor is pumped into the film via actor Perry Benson, who steals every scene as the friendly but manipulative opportunist of the neighborhood.
Presented in anamorphic widescreen (1.85:1 aspect ratio), "Somers Town" has been shot in black and white (save for the final sequence) and on a tight budget, with a DVD encounter that reflects the low-tech visual reach of the film. Some pixelation is present, but the overall appearance is expectedly grainy and free of distortion.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 sound mix is very discreet, working more to make sense of various accents than offering a dimensional event. Soundtrack selections carry a warm fidelity, and dialogue exchanges are surprisingly easy to understand. It's a modest track, but easy to enjoy.
"Interviews" (26:44) sits down with the actors and Shane Meadows to discuss the motivations behind the "Somers Town" experience and how the film came to be (seems Eurostar paid for the whole thing). The chat is quite appealing, allowing the talent to explain themselves in detail, with Meadows taking the lion's share of the featurette.
"Somers Town: A History" is a text-based history of the titular location.
A Theatrical Trailer is included.
Also offered is the short film "Odd Shoe" (9:56), directed by Paul Cotter.
Again, "Somers Town" doesn't feel the need to land anywhere specifically, merely content to snatch important moments of interaction and reflection. It's an immigrant tale, a teen romance of sorts, and a buddy film rolled into a rewarding miniature drama exploring life in England; a small package of delights the tumbles about with a refreshingly sense of leisure.