Once Upon a Time in London 

SOMERSTOWN2.jpg

Somers Town
Directed by Shane Meadows

An overgrown short, the new feature by Shane Meadows is mostly an excuse to watch Tommy Turgoose, the littlest skinhead of the director's This Is England, screw around, lovably brash and tender. Looking elongated by a foot and less Churchill-cheeked, Turgoose plays Tomo, a Midlands runaway who gets mugged in London by three kids and then befriends Marek (Piotr Jagello), the diffident son of a Polish construction worker. The two become thick as thieves, and their antics, banter and flirtations with Marek's indulgent waitress crush (Elisa Lasowski) comprise the movie's meager improvisations.

So: Tomo ends up in a baggy women's smock, the two get stoopid to techno, the girl gets pushed around in a wheelchair, and odd jobs are performed for a pudgy neighborhood wheeler-dealer. Set to strummy songs, the rambunctious whimsy of the boys' friendship prevails, broken only by petulance; aside from hollow tension between Marek and his dad, it's worlds away from Meadows's dramas of damaged masculinity like England or Dead Man's Shoes. Shot in black and white, the locations look all the more drab (notwithstanding a compliment Tomo drops about a nearby train terminal, which may or may not be related to the film being produced by Eurostar).

Even at little more than 70 minutes, a little bit of okay-now-do-a-scene-where-you're-hanging-out direction goes a long way. It's hard to scorn this appealingly awkward duo of budding roustabouts entirely, but the filmmakers and actors might be having the most fun here.

Opens July 15 at Film Forum

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