Edinburgh International Film Festival: England Is Mine
Sun 2 July | Festival Theatre
Duration: 93 minutes
General from: £15
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An amusing and evocative portrait of singer-songwriter Steven Patrick Morrissey, focused on his young adult years in Manchester. Set in the 1970s as his ambitions to be a musician developed, but before he went on to become lead singer of seminal 1980s band The Smiths, this is Morrissey (beautifully played by rising star Jack Lowden) brimming with youthful arrogance, but searching to find his place in the musical world.
A would-be writer, he sends letter after letter to the New Musical Express, but finds himself forced to take a job at the local tax office to help his family. He is constantly taking time off to spend time with London-bound local art student Linder (an entrancing Jessica Brown Findlay) or hiding on the office roof to write lyrics. Made with a wonderfully wry sense of humour, it presents a fish-out-of-water Morrissey, intent on railing on those around him, but also too shy and insecure at times to break from the mainstream.
There are delicious moments of humour – especially when co-worker Christine (Jodie Comer) essentially blackmails him into dating her – as Morrissey struggles to find his musical mojo, plus a great sense of time and place within the Manchester music scene. The film is an unauthorised portrait of the young Morrisey, exploring his musical influences, ambition, disappointments, depression and creativity, ending just as he and guitarist Johnny Marr finally get together with a view to setting up a band.
The title comes from The Smiths’ classic hit Still Ill ('England is mine, and it owes me a living. Ask me why and I'll spit in your eye'), written by Morrissey and Marr, and perfectly reflecting his ambitions, frustrations and eventual determination to become the artist he always knows, deep down, he is destined to be.
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