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XS Manchester favourite Morrissey gets the biopic treatment - but is it worthy of the man himself?
ENGLAND IS MINE (Dir. Mark Gill, 94 mins, Cert 15)
The dreaded rock-star biopic. Some have been okay (Nowhere Boy), some have been great (THE DOORS). As for all the rest? Not so great. In the case of ENGLAND IS MINE, about a young and budding Steven Morrissey’s teenage years, this lies somewhere in a grey area - which I have a sneaky feeling Morrissey himself would love.
Set during the winter of 1976, young Steven, aptly performed by Jack Lowden (Dunkirk), struggles through the normal pains of being a teenager whilst growing up in Manchester. He’s depressed, he’s a narcissist and he wants to sing. But you already knew that about him didn't you? As for the more subtle character traits of this great performer that you were hoping to get an insight into… well, there aren’t really any more. ENGLAND IS MINE presents a surface level look at this man. I am convinced there are many facets to his personality that we as a general punter don’t know, and this is the perfect platform to discover them, but instead we simply see a moody, poetic teenager who moans about music, moans about life and moans about work.
Morrissey does love a moan, but I’m sure he loves other things too, and I would have liked to have found out what. The craft of the film is exasperatingly dull, coming from the mind of co-writer and director Mark Gill, who was nominated for an Oscar for his brilliant short film The Voorman Problem, he seems to have run out of ideas about how to visually intertwine the content of this film with the audience. I believe a massive flaw of this film stems from the legal restrictions on the project, ensuring that no music, lyrics or imagery from The Smiths could be used, leaving this film hanging in a strange sense of limbo as to the direction they are all headed.
The closest it comes to giving a wink-winknudge-nudge to the audience is when he meets a young lad name Johnny. In fact, the involvement of team Morrissey as a whole would have really benefitted this film, allowing the use of music and giving a personal insight to the filmmakers. Leaving the screening I really couldn’t tell who this film is for, if you aren’t a Smiths fan this will be of absolutely no interest to you. If you don’t know who The Smiths even are, this is about a young narcissist who is consistently awful to everyone he meets and receives no comeuppance.
If you are a Smiths fan then there is so little reference to anything that is to come in his career, but you might enjoy his trails and tribulations in navigating the world of the IRS. A good effort from Gill and co, but the delivery of the film could have been much stronger.