ENGLAND IS MINE – (Cleopatra Blu Ray) 2017. color.94 mins. Region A. $29.95- https://www.amazon.com/England-Mine-Blu-ray-Jack-Lowden/dp/B074R49SZX/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1513794098&sr=8-2&keywords=ENGLAND+IS+MINE
Indie icon Morrissey continues to stir controversy. His first album in three years, LOW IN HIGH SCHOOL, was released on a new label that he created after he felt his last release was mishandled.
He claimed that HMV was refusing to carry the album due to it’s anti -monarchy cover art as well as throwing his support behind an anti-Muslim politician in the U.K. (who was trounced) rather than throwing his arms around Paris. After seemingly defending Kevin Spacey and other serial abusers (“When you are in somebody’s bedroom, you have to be aware of where that can lead to. That’s why it does not sound very credible to me. It seems to me that Spacey has been attacked unnecessarily”), he has sworn off any future print interviews, saying that he was misquoted.
Plus, he has cancelled a recent spate of performances for a variety of reasons (one because the venue was “too cold”), so he has been front and center in the public’s eye, and not for his music. Even today as I write this, an hour ago he claimed that he was interviewed by the Secret Service after a flip comment about Donald Trump.
ENGLAND IS MINE is a film that seeks to explore what turned shy socially awkward intellectual became the darling of the alt rock scene as well as a dissent magnet.
Steven Patrick Morrissey (born 22 May 1959) to Irish Catholics who immigrated to Manchester, a poor working-class area. The film opens with Morrissey (marvelously embodied by Olivier Award winner Jack Lowden, also in the epic DUNKIRK( W.B,2017 )and to portray Lord Darnley in the upcoming MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS (Focus,2018) deep in thought about his place in life observing churning waters that seem to reflect his own inner turmoils.
He and his friend and confidante Anji (Katherine Pearce, recently in MY COUSIN RACHEL, Fox,2017) go to local clubs wherein he writes blistering letters to N.M.E.(New Musical Express). She says he should stop complaining about others and start his own band. To this end, she contacts another musician, who shows up at the appointed place, but Morrissey’s shyness has him run away before even chatting.
Meanwhile, all is not good at home, as his father abandons the family at Christmas, forcing the young man to take a dead-end job at the Inland Revenue Service. His outlook is bleak until he meets free spirited artist Linder (Jessica Brown Findlay, so good in VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN, Fox,2015). She exemplifies what he would like to be, and so he finally joins a band.
There first gig is so well received that an agent gives them his card. Morrissey quits his dead-end job, thinking that stardom is now his but finds that the agent only wanted their guitarist.
Morrissey plunges into a massive depression, made worse by Linder leaving for London due to her art.
The film ends just as Morrissey joins up with Johnny Marr (Laurie Kynaston, THEY FOUND HELL, Cinetel ,2015) to form The Smiths.
Lowden & Kynaston as Morrissey and Marr
Sadly, since this was not an authorized biography, the movie was not allowed to use any of Morrissey’s music. Instead, music that he loved and inspired him is used as a soundtrack to events happening. One would have liked music by the composer to be used, especially with The Smiths (The title ENGLAND IS MINE comes from “Still Ill”, a Smiths song (“England is mine, and it owes me a living”). The film began production as “Stevie”).
The real Marr & Morrissey
However, since this is set just prior to their formation, one could be forgiven that absence if more New York Dolls and Sex Pistols had been used. Instead, we are treated to Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, Diana Dors, The Shangri-Las, and The Marvelettes pops up. Mostly, it is not even used as ironic counterpoint. It might have been wiser to have had a completely original score.
“Heaven Knows, I’m Miserable Now” (another Smiths hit) may have been a more appropriate title for the film, as this kitchen sink drama gets caught up in the depressive side of the singer composer’s life.
First time director Mark Gill (who co-wrote the screenplay with William Thacker) get the air of depressiveness that overwhelmed England during the time of Margaret Thatcher, but makes his lead a most unlikeable smug egomaniac (accurate perhaps, but not one with whom you wish to spend 90 minutes of cinema time).
It is odd that one of the producers of ENGLAND MADE ME was involved with CONTROL (Weinstein, 2007) which dealt with the life and early death of Ian Curtis ,the lead singer of Joy Division, at age 23. That film got it so right.
Another rock star biopic by a first-time director that works was NOWHERE BOY(Weinstein,2009), about young John Lennon.
The filmmakers make a lot of assumptions that the audience for this are die hard Smiths fans alone, and so no explanation is given for example of the fixation for the Moor Murders by the characters. For those who do not know, The Moors murders were of 5 children sexually assaulted and murdered between 1963 and 1965 around Manchester. Ian Brady and Myra Hindley were both convicted for the killings, Brady dying in prison in 2002, and Hindley just this past May,2017.
The Blu Ray disc from Cleopatra accurately reproduces the dark drab grays and blues of cinematographer Nicholas D. Knowland (The Quay Brothers’ INSTITUTE BENJAMENTA, Image 1995). It is presented in a widescreen ratio of 2.35:1
The 5.1 Dolby Digital 5.1 is serviceable, but nothing memorably outstanding.
The extras include:
SMOKE & MIRRORS: an onset chat with cinematographer Nicholas D Knowland .
Audio Commentary: Actor Jack Lowden and director Mark Gill discuss the making of the film. Both have a great deal of respect about each other’s work. Stand out moment to me was when Lowden said the most difficult thing for him to learn was to use a record player (! I’m old).
SAD FACTS WIDELY KNOWN: Some behind the scenes footage. It is without commentary, so it is best to check this out after watching the film to see what is going on.
Optional English subtitles: this may come in very handy for those not accustomed to English accents, and it follows the action quite well.
Original theatrical trailer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4DHJa10Sa8A
The film will be of interest to
Fans of Morrissey (of course) who may say “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want”.
– Kevin G Shinnick