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England is Mine (2017)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/19/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/28/2017
If you are like me and watch a lot of movies, then you've most likely seen your fair share of bad ones. As I've stated in the past, it's apparently very hard to make a good movie. But, one genre which should be difficult to mess up is the biopic. It would seem that if you choose an interesting subject, get some competent actors, tell the story in a fairly chronological manner, and keep the camera in focus, then a good movie should be the end product. However, as with most things in life, filmmakers often want to complicate things and take what should be simple and turn it into something obtuse. Or, even worse, give the audience something which they don't want. That is certainly the case with England is Mine.
Steven Patrick Morrissey (Jack Lowden) is an unusual young man. It's the mid-70s and Steven lives with his parents in Manchester, England. He's obsessed with music and when he's not listening to music in his room or catching live shows, he likes to write scathing reviews and send them to music magazines. Steven dreams of being in a band himself, but can't be bothered to actually meet any musicians. His best friend, Anji (Katherine Pearce), tolerates him, but she grows frustrated at his lack of ambition. Slowly, Steven's life begins to change. He's forced to get an office job, but his spends most of his time at work writing lyrics. He becomes friends with an artist named Linder (Jessica Brown Findlay) who is able to bring him out of his shell somewhat. However, Steven soon learns that when you put your neck out there and actually take a chance, the world can be a very cruel place.
In the event that the name Steven Patrick Morrissey isn't familiar to you, then you may know him better by his stage name, Morrissey. And if that doesn't ring a bell, you may know him as the singer for The Smiths. If you don't know The Smiths, then I don't know what else to tell you. Yes, England is Mine focuses on Morrissey, who was part of one of the most influential British bands of the 80s and who is well known for the views on veganism, governments, sexuality, and rival bands. To say that Morrissey is a colorful, flamboyant, and interesting person would be a grand understatement.
So, imagine the shock at how dreadfully boring England is Mine is. One would assume that the movie is going to show us how Morrissey became Morrissey, but we don't get anything like that. The person presented here is more akin to Sheldon Cooper than the coiffed showman that we would come to know from music videos. And that's not an exaggeration. Steven Morrissey is portrayed as unemotional, antisocial, and someone who seems genuinely confused by everything going on around him. Is this an accurate portrayal of what Morrissey was like during those years? I don't know, but it certainly does not make for an interesting movie, and Morrissey is not a likable character. The film constantly pushes the viewer away and when things don't go Steven's way, we don't feel anything for him.
If nothing else, the viewer should expect to learn some things about Morrissey from England is Mine and the film does put forth some facts. We learn that his father left home around this time. We learn that Steven loved music and would constantly write about it. We learn that he longed to be in a band, but his personality issues would often get in the way. Yes, the movie does put forth some facts, but it doesn't provide us with any true in-depth information or emotions. Was Director Mark Gill attempting to manifest the stereotypical cold, stoic British life in the film itself? If so, he's succeeded, but we also get a movie where we don't really learn anything about what is going on inside of Steven. Sure, he pouts a lot and proves to be an early adopter of the emo lifestyle, but I came away feeling that I knew very little about Morrissey the man. (I was a big fan of The Cult in the late 80s and I was very surprised to learn that guitarist Billy Duffy and Morrissey had worked together. So, there's that.)
The thing about England is Mine which is really going to tick off fans of The Smiths is that the film ends just as Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr decide to work together. So, the film truly is about Morrissey and we only get to see the first few moments of how The Smiths formed. Adding insult to injury, the movie contains no music by The Smiths or Morrissey. I would love to say that Lowden, who looks completely different from his appearance inDunkirk, did a good job in his role, but, as stated above, I don't know if it's accurate, and all that he does is frown and lie in bed. I've never been a huge fan of The Smiths, but I like some of their stuff and I appreciate their place in music history, thus I was open to learning more about them. But, all that England is Mine gave me is a portrait of an awkward, off-putting young man, who lives a solitary life and makes the same mistakes over and over. Again, you will learn some things about Morrissey, but you won't come away feeling that you know him any better than before.
England is Mine reinforces the idea that everyone outside of London is miserable on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Cleopatra Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look realistic, although things are kept pretty drab here, and the image wanders towards dark at times. The level of detail is good, and the picture is never soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 2.4 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The rushing water which opens the film provides some nice surround sound, as do some of the club scenes. Otherwise, we get a track which predominantly comes from the center and front channels. I didn't note any significant subwoofer effects here.
The England is Mine Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Mark Gill and Jack Lowden. "Sad Facts Widely Known" (8 minutes) is simply a reel of "fly on the wall" on-set footage which shows the actors and crew working on various scenes, both on-location and on sound stages. "Smoke & Mirrors" (22 minutes) is a long conversation with Cinematographer Nicholas D. Knowland, who provides a great deal of information on how the film was shot. This includes a nice amount of footage showing Knowland behind the camera. The final extra is an "Image Gallery" of stills.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long