The director Shane Meadows in discussing his recent skinhead flick “This Is England,” was asked if he was influenced by similarly-themed eighties films like Mike Leigh’s “Meantime” and Alan Clarke’s “Made In Britain.” He replied that he wasn’t so much influenced by them as that they were a part of him. (So much of art stems from the ability to absorb other art.) “Made In Britain” is the film that marked the screen debut of Tim Roth, an actor I have much respect for, an average talent elevated to greatness through sheer passion and hard work. Unfortunately, “Made In Britain” is one very simpleminded film. A made-for-TV-movie about an intelligent but lost skinhead named Trevor whose violent, racist behavior leads to a stint in social services, Clarke’s mediocre work is less its intended youth crime and its consequences docudrama than cautionary tale, concerning the destruction of the nonconformist soul at the hands of Thatcher’s England.
The fact that the British generally don’t think outside the class-conscious box truly makes me appreciate American ingenuity. Growing up a rebel in Reagan’s America at the same time as Shane Meadows I learned not to lash out nor “blindly follow the rules,” but to pretend to so I could subvert society from within. I discovered it’s much more rewarding to beat the system than to destroy it. Dogs genetically predisposed to hyperactivity become angry and neurotic when they’re placed in confinement – inevitable behavior when the box they’re put in is too small. This is not the fault of the dog, but that of his environment. Likewise, the answer to Trevor’s existential dilemma isn’t the (British) “grow up and go along with the bullshit system,” it’s “rebel, just do it smart so you don’t get caught.” Thank heaven for the American way.