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Somers Town

Youth Without Youth

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Somers Town, the most lighthearted offering to date from This Is England director Shane Meadows, could easily be dismissed as slight. At little more than an hour, it is amiably aimless, following two bored teenagers -- Tomo (Thomas Turgoose), a mysterious runaway from the Midlands, and Marek (Piotr Jagiello), the son of a hard-drinking Polish construction worker -- as they idle away their days on the streets of London.

Not much happens. Early on, Tomo is mugged by a trio of thugs -- hardly the most violent fate to befall one of Meadows’ characters -- in a sequence presumably intended to show the dangers of life on the street, but otherwise unrelated to what follows. The next morning, Tomo wanders into the café where Marek passes his time admiring a lovely French waitress (Elisa Lasowski) who seems pleased by his attentions. A friendship blossoms.

The two boys find creative ways to waste time. They steal clothes from a laundry and try them on for size. (They fit, but as Tomo astutely observes, “They’re ridiculous.”) They find an abandoned wheelchair and treat it as their personal chariot. And when all else fails to sate their modest attention spans, they hit the bottle, with predictably sloppy results.

If I’ve made Somers Town sound dull, that’s hardly my intention. There is more to engage the mind here than in most adventures twice its length, thanks to Paul Fraser’s perceptive script. Tomo and Marek are driven together, at least initially, by loneliness and boredom, but the simple pleasure they find in each other’s company is disarmingly sweet. Circumstances have forced them to grow up too soon, and one senses that whatever lessons they need to learn they will learn from each other.

Shot in luscious black and white, Somers Town was originally commissioned as a short film promoting the railway line Eurostar. Meadows turned down the project, then reconsidered, and Tomo and Marek do indeed catch a train ride just before the closing credits roll. It’s a fitting end for two kids always on the move with nowhere in particular to go.