Cinema Review: England Is Mine | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Wednesday, February 26th, 2020  

England Is Mine

Studio: Cleopatra
Directed by Mark Gill

Aug 23, 2017 Web Exclusive
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A young Steven Morrissey sullenly shuffles through young adulthood in this biopic about the future alt-rock king. The endlessly grey backdrop that is his native Manchester certainly doesn’t help matters, though Steven seems to be all the more perturbed by those in the foreground—the boss, colleagues, and relatives who’d never understand just the brilliant talent that he is so certain of possessing. But after befriending a fellow young, aspiring artist, singing at a gig of his own (instead of writing bitterly pithy critiques of local bands), and making plans to move to London, Steven’s cloudy disposition finally begins to clear. During these climactic moments we, the audience, begin to wonder whether we’re finally witnessing the end of this future icon’s wallowing, and catch ourselves rooting for him in spite of it all. 

But such moments of levity are fleeting during much of England Is Mine’s running time. Instead, the bulk of this movie centers on the morose, mopeiness of Morrissey.

Oh, if only the subject really was indeed worthy of the biopic treatment at this point in his life, then the talent behind England Is Mine could have crafted quite a good film. That’s apparent in director Mark Gill’s subtle choice of angles—from the protagonist’s sullen face being reflected back in the spectacles he holds in his hands while being berated by his boss; to the typewriter next to Steven when he wakes one morning, revealing a blank page when the camera comes into focus.

Star Jack Lowden’s turn as the woe begotten, future rock star is quite understated, complex and engrossing, if at times a bit too melancholy to the point of wooden aloofness. A bigger issue is his matinee idol looks, which makes the Morrissey depicted in this film much more reminiscent of the James Dean poster on his wall. Still, the star and director’s commitment to the monotony of Morrissey’s misery are admirable, and during the moments when young Steven sings onstage, scrawls in his notebook, or meets his eventual Smiths bandmate Johnny Marr, the audience will be enthralled with England Is Mine. However, just like a plodding latter day Morrissey LP, only diehard, melancholy fans will be rapt with this project throughout. 

Author rating: 6/10

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