Apologies for the lateness of this review (seeing as the finale is just around the corner now) and I unfortunately don't have the time to do a thorough assessment of Part Three, either. But here are some thoughts on the penultimate part of this drama.
Part Three was again co-written again by Shane Meadows, with Jack Thorne, but he also steps behind the camera for the final half of this series. This Is England '86 has been a particularly excellent production in terms of visuals, often competing with most British movies out there right now. It's equal to the 2006 movie and often surpasses it, so it's aesthetically a pleasure to watch. The opening montage to footage of the Falklands War, with Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) sleeping rough and going to visit his soldier father's memorial, was particularly well done.
This episode wasn't as frolicsome as the previous two, with a potent theme of sex carrying through the whole hour. Gadget (Andrew Ellis) has become a toy boy for the sexually insatiable Trudy (Hannah Walters); Lol's (Vicky McClure) relationship with Woody (Joe Gilgun) is deteriorating, so she's taken to having meaningless sex with Milky (Andrew Shim) behind his back; and Lol's father Mick (Johnny Harris) is angry about her claiming he's a paedophile, but later proves her correct after an extremely uncomfortable scene when he rapes his daughter's teenage friend Trev (Danielle Watson).
That final sequence was particularly memorable for all the right reasons, with a superb performance from Harris and Watson that got to the heart of how empty and pitiful rape can be. It's a tough event to portray sensitively but accurately, but this was one of the best examples I've seen in awhile. Considering how Watson's a peripheral character of no real consequence until now, it was especially good work from that actress, and Meadows's assured direction no doubt helped both actors rise to the challenge.
On the downside, I still find the tone wobbles around from achingly realistic to rather cartoonish, not helped by the fact many of the characters are drawn thin and primarily there for comic relief. A lot of the time the performances are so dryly comic that it makes the serious-minded material look incongruous. I know the idea is to balance light and shade, but they can be a little too broad and daft for my taste, while swathes of this episode were again taken up with small incidents of little value (like the afternoon football match that turned violent when that idiotic biker gang arrived looking for a fight). I wish there was more of a clear focus, really, because only subplots belonging to Lol and Mick have captured my imagination by the third episode. I've been particularly disappointed by Shaun's storyline, considering he was the star of the preceding movie this is all based on, but he's been marginalized because TIE86 is an ensemble piece.
Overall, it was the smattering of great moments that really pulled Part Three through, not to mention the inciting climax with Combo (Stephen Graham) making his long-awaited return, collapsing into Shaun's home to the astonishment of Smell (Rosamund Hanson) and Shaun's mum. But has the show left everything too late? Part Four has a lot to wrap-up in an hour, unless the plan is to leave the door open for another series...
WRITERS: Shane Meadows & Jack Thorne
DIRECTOR: Shane Meadows
CAST: Thomas Turgoose, Rosamund Hanson, Joe Gilgun, Vicky McClure, Andrew Ellis, Andrew Shim, Stephen Graham, Perry Benson, George Newton, Jo Hartley, Johnny Harris, Kriss Dosanjh, Danielle Watson, Joe Dempsie, Chanel Cresswell, Michael Socha, Hannah Walters, Katherine Dow Blyton & Perry Fitzpatrick
TRANSMISSION: 21 September 2010 – CHANNEL 4/HD, 10PM