Director: Mark Gill.
Starring. Jack Lowden, Jessica Brown Findlay, Simone King. UK. 1h 34m.
I never really planned on watching this biopic as I have no interest in Morrissey and only casually listen to the Smiths from time to time, obviously like most people born in the 80s and 90s at least, I’m aware of “that song” but overall I spend more time watching Morrissey’s own fans cringe whenever he opens his mouth about topical issues, and if they are cringey about it I am sure I don’t really want to get involved. Eventually I did, through more curiosity about the film than the man, and I am forever pleasantly surprised as the film distances itself Morrissey the man and somehow manages to find a modest insight into any misunderstood awkward Manchurian. This modest approach to such a controversial figure is both clever and has resulted in a poetically beautiful film.
The Smiths were, and still are an important part of British music, the blend of Keats and Yeats melded into unique emo tempos with catching light guitar riffs, is something pretty rare. As, is the stark, humble beginnings of the man behind the iconic sounds. This seems to be the driving force of producers who, after crafting beautiful black and white masterpieces, Control (2007) have matched the powerful sentiment of another English anomaly. Control’s success isn’t just down to the hypnotic monochrome day dream that explained the life of the tragic front man Ian Curtis but he’s a figure, while dark and mopey, had an allure and those hypnotic eyes.. on the other hand, Morrissey is often considered an outspoken cunt, so can a movie about him really be that wonderful? Looking under the surface and finding a common ground, actually he’s not that unusual.
Indeed, the best thing about England is mine is the performance by Jack Lowden as Stephen Patrick Morrissey, and the approach that it could easily be about any opinionated, awkward young man from Manchester. Spending his hours writing about how dismal the world is around him, trying to put on a normal face for his job and struggling not to implode with despair, a despair that he can’t access the music that he needs to thrive and feed on!
The faithful representation of the working class Manchester that the troubled genius comes from is equally as detailed, both inside workspaces, gigs and the homes of Stephen and his friends there’s a perfect slice of England from the 70’s and 80’s, but while all of this is provoking, the film gingerly side steps it’s actual target and only lightly suggests the tight friendships he formed with some of the strong women of his young life. It’s very unofficial, and the true essence of Morrissey is completely missing and this is something that might send Smiths fans into a frenzy!
For the right mindset it’s a really entertaining and enjoyable movie, equally funny and tragic, but alas this isn’t the biographical that it hoped to be and I believe this is still outstanding in movie format and I feel that movie will be a stark contrast to this gem.
Related – Awaydays (2008), Control (2007),
List – Modern Music Biographies