The other night, just after I read that Chabon essay about the Wilderness of Childhood, I watched This Is England on a whim and I was positively floored. It’s about a twelve year old boy in rural England in 1983 who becomes entangled with a twenty-something skinhead, who exposes the boy to a lot of violence and extremism. (The two main characters mirror each other perfectly: a child who is forced to act like a man and a man who can’t help but act like a child.)
The first thing that stood out to me was how beautifully it was plotted. Maybe I just picked up on this because my boyfriend has been reading John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction to me in any spare moment he finds, but we both couldn’t help but gush about how each scene was perfectly weighted to balance each plot line: the political context, racial tension, the boy’s romantic interest, the two main character’s back-stories and ideas about family and fatherhood.
Also, it’s acted beautifully, written beautifully and is somehow extremely funny, horrifying, engrossing, violent, and heartbreaking all at once. It’s the kind of movie that I feel is an education in plot and character development. It’s up on Netflix and you can stream it right now if you’re so inclined. I already want to watch it again.
What are some other movies that you feel have been beneficial/influential to your writing?