Movie review: Somers Town

Originally published in City Pages, April 15, 2009

On its surface, Somers Town might be mistaken for the kind of standard-issue coming-of-age story that frequently fills space on festival programs, but this impeccably observed slice of life is much more interested in being-of-age. The plot, such as it is, centers on an unexpected friendship struck between two teens in lower-middle-class London: shy, Polish-born photography buff Marek (Piotr Jagiello) and brash-talking suburban runaway Tomo (Thomas Turgoose). As director Shane Meadows‘s naturalistic, black-and-white camera follows the boys on a rambling series of moneymaking schemes and attempts at wooing a gorgeous coffee-shop waitress, the storyline takes a backseat to the players’ personalities. Turgoose (who also starred in Meadows’s well-received This Is England) turns in an indelible performance as a damaged young man whose foul-mouthed bluster doesn’t come close to covering up his vulnerability. His pairing with the lanky, bright-eyed Jagiello sometimes brings to mind Superbad played straight and directed by Mike Leigh. Buoyed by some fine supporting work by Ireneusz Czop as Marek’s embattled single father and Perry Benson as a soft-hearted junk dealer, Somers Town emerges as an unfiltered, universal portrait of all the angst, joy, passion, and pain that comes with being 16 in the city. —Ira Brooker

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