Steven Morrissey was once part of The Smiths, a band back in the early 80’s that would go on to define a generation of music. Though they broke up several decades ago their influence on the musical world can still be felt today. In England Is Mine director Mark Gills tells the formative years of the lead singer Morrissey in Manchester and how his style and passion for his voice to be heard helped create an iconic band.
Starring in England Is Mine is Jack Lowden, a rising star who recently appeared in the ensemble cast of the incredible Dunkirk. His performance as the arrogant and self-professed musical genius Morrissey is magnetic. Every scene he is in is fantastic and he fully becomes Morrissey delving deep into the persona of a complex individual. He’s not likable coming across as an overtly arrogant individual who somehow attracts people to him. It’s a strange attribute and it’s fascinating to watch as he spouts his over the top insults to those he deems unworthy and they are numerous in number. Between his onscreen presence and his impeccable acting Lowden is a force to be reckoned with.
Starring alongside him is an intimate supporting cast, there is Jessica Brown Findlay who plays Linder Sterling close friend and confidant to Morrissey. She spurs him on and her presence in the film is a welcome one. She’s an excellent foil that has an enjoyable back and forth with him. They have several scenes together trying to one up each other with quotes from their favourite authors. There is also Morrissey’s family who are an almost constant sense of stress. His sister (Vivienne Bell) and father (Peter McDonald) believes he should be working, earning a wage and being like everyone else. They both find his introverted attitude a massive annoyance and a hindrance to the family. Thankfully though his mother (Simone Kirby) is a constant avenue of strength that he taps into as the film comes to its final act.
Mark Gills skills in directing and cinematography should also be taken into consideration as he sets up stylistically the era of the 1970’s so well. There are several scenes that have a setup akin to an album cover, in particular the final scene of the film. He has lovingly paid tribute to one of musics greats and what makes this film so genuine is that Gill does not shy away from the elements of Morrissey that rub people up the wrong way. He’s abrasive, he’s contrary and his attitude is beyond arrogant but there is an odd magnetism, that “it” factor, that seems to draw people to him. This film above all else delivers an understanding of the magnetism of musicians and artists. If there are any issues with the film it’s that at times it plays out like a day time soap and the dialogue from some of the characters comes across as ridiculously dramatic. There are also moments that will confound you, such as a scene that is set up at a fairground that came across as pretentious and confusing.
As a newcomer to the legend that is The Smiths and Morrissey as a musical figure I was moved by this film. From the score, the cinematography and the effortless way Jack Lowden owns the screen, England Is Mine is a brilliant film.