England Is Mine takes the period in Steven Patrick Morrissey’s life from first constructing thoughts about poetry, whether reading or writing, and up to the time when he would embark upon a career with Johnny Marr, in 1982.
“Life, in its humdrum sense, is worth avoiding… and through it all, a sense that things are slowly falling apart.”
Yes, the film begins with the words of the prophet Morrissey, which later add, “If there was ever a revolution in England, we’d form an orderly queue at the guillotine.”
When we first meet the young lad, played by Dunkirk‘s Jack Lowden, he spends his time reviewing local bands and slags them off big-time, yet he’s looking to join one and find like-minded people, leading to the time when his friend Anji (Nicola-Jayne Wells) tells him she’s found one for him, adding with sarcasm, “I’ve got you a date(!)”
Beyond this, we see him meeting up with artist Linder (Jessica Brown Findlay), who makes her presence felt through a comment in the paper about his reviews, before also showing his interactions with office colleague Caroline (Jodie Comer).
In life, it’s difficult to work out who you are and where you’re going, when you’re young, but as we learned over time, Morrissey is an absolute genius, and this movie is mostly a work of genius. His and The Smiths’ songs conjure up images and feelings of depression and some of the worst things you might experience. So, imagine a film that sees the dark humour in the construction of the band and had this viewer in stitches regularly.
In addition, there’s no actual Smiths songs in this, which might sound odd, but then re-read my first sentence in this review, as you’re looking at the early years of the man. However, there are a number of ’60s and ’70s songs which influenced him including The Shangri-Las’ Give Him A Great Big Kiss, Sparks’ This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us and Mott The Hoople’s Sea Diver.
Anyone with even a passing interest in Morrissey and The Smiths should watch this, and big fans should do so urgently.
I have to quote two of many superb exchanges in this film:
- Anji: “The world is not going to come to you.”
Morrissey: “It might do(!)”
- Christine: “Do you have much auditing experience?”
Morrissey: “I keep a list of people I dislike.”
In addition, there’s a brief shot of part of the old Longford and Essoldo Cinema Stretford cinema shown in the background during the opening titles, in its original colours, whereas today it’s shut down and coated in ghastly blue paint. I pass it every day, and according to this site, it’s due to be converted into student accommodation at some point, but in the meantime, this Grade II listed building has been closed since 1995.
If I could question one thing, he talks about working for the HMRC (aka Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs), but at the period in which this film is set, he’d actually have been working for one of the two companies tht merged together to form them – the Inland Revenue or the HM Customs and Excise.
Given that Lowden was singing at a gig in the style of Morrissey, I’d love to see a follow-up that looks into the years when he and Marr worked together.
I do have some reservations, though, – as well as the fact it’s a shame the movie wasn’t released on Blu-ray since it’s so good (although one is coming out in the US) – and those for which I only learned afterwards – although I didn’t want to look things up before watching it. I’ll put this behind a spoiler heading in case you don’t want to know this beforehand, either.
The film is presented in the original widescreen ratio of 2.35:1 and since this is released on DVD only, it’s not as sharp as a Blu-ray, and in fact, it looks slightly less defined than I’d normally expect, which is a shame. However, there is a way for UK viewers to watch it in HD, and that comes with the Amazon Video link above.
The audio is in Dolby Digital 5.1, and there’s occasionally some split-surround but nothing to get excited about. It’s mostly a dialogue-driven movie with some music, as you’d expect.
The brief extras are as follows:
- Sad Facts Widely Known (8:06): On-set footage without continuity nor narrative.
- Smoke and Mirrors (21:02): This is more of a traditional making-of but instead of chat from the cast and crew, there’s just chat from cinematographer Nicholas D Knowland, taking you through how he found ideal locations to shoot.
- Audio commentary: Jack Lowden with director Mark Gill.
The only extra is a trailer (1:29), which is a shame. As stated earlier, it’s entirely in the circular ratio.
The menu is a mix of clips from the film with some incidental music, subtitles are in English and there are 16 chapters. Regular readers know I prefer one every five minutes… and we’ve just about got this here, by default, since the film is so short.
One extra piece of news: This Thursday, the Rough Trade record shops in both East London and Nottingham are putting on a free screening at 7pm, whilst if you’re in Bristol, the Rough Trade shop, there, is doing the same on Monday 18th December, again at 7pm. There’s more info here. One somewhere in Manchester would be great, though!
Running time: 91 mins
Distributor: Thunderbird Releasing
Released: December 4th 2017
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
Disc Format: DVD9
Director: Mark Gill
Producer: Baldwin Li and Orian Williams
Screenplay: Mark Gill and William Thacker
Steven Patrick Morrissey: Jack Lowden
Anji Hardie: Katherine Pearce
Linder Sterling: Jessica Brown Findlay
Christine: Jodie Comer
Billy Duffy: Adam Lawrence
Mr. Leonard: Graeme Hawley
Elizabeth Morrissey: Simone Kirby
Peter Morrissey: Peter McDonald
Johnny Marr: Laurie Kynaston
Darren: Finney Cassidy
Rock Chick: Nicola-Jayne Wells
Gary: Joseph Carter
Gordon: Marc Graham
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.