Here’s a filmmaking conundrum for you. You want to make a movie about a legendary rock star, but you’re barred from using his music in your film. What do you do? Accept your idea is dead in the water or pretend everything’s going to be OK and go for it anyway?
Writer and director Mark Gill went for the latter option when putting together England is Mine (★, 15 cert, 94 mins), his “unofficial” story of the formative years of Steven Patrick Morrissey, lead singer of revered indie band, The Smiths. I’ve watched the result and, as Morrissey might say, heaven knows I’m miserable now.
The film portrays a mopey young Mancunian sitting in his bedroom, tapping away on his typewriter and staring at books about the Moors murderers. He also mopes around his office at the Inland Revenue and dingy gig venues, while offering up mopey voice-overs about how rubbish England is. And then the film ends, just before Morrissey teams up with his musical other half, genius guitar player Johnny Marr.
We don’t hear them coming up with so much as a line of their literate, and often wondrous, music. Marr knocks on Morrissey’s door and the credits roll. It’s as if the ending has been chopped off – it’s like watching Rocky minus the climactic fight scene.
The plot, or what there is of it, can be summed up as “boy wants to be in band, boy doesn’t do much about it”, and the script is littered with modern anachronisms that jar badly with the early 1980s setting.
The one issue brought into play that briefly threatens to pique the interest, namely Morrissey’s sexuality, is not dealt with in any meaningful way. A couple of female characters are wheeled out for him to strike up awkward, barely developed friendships with, and we get a few shots of him staring (mopily, of course) at a picture of Oscar Wilde hanging on his bedroom wall.
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