Well I think I may as well just start calling myself a Shane Meadows fan-girl.
24 7, Meadows’ first feature film, is one of his lesser known films, eclipsed by the later successes of Romeo Brass and This Is England. Eclipsed though it may be, it still stands in its own right as an original artwork of what Meadows is all about: Brit grit.
Set in your bog-standard British town, 24 7 tells the story of youth gangs already feeling hopeless in a lost Britain. That is until Darcy comes along and sets up a local boxing club to keep the lads off the streets and give some focus to their lives. One of the boys is a very young James Corden: he plays Tonka, the poor fat kid with curtains, who Darcy takes under his wing along with the other thuggish lads. However, this is no sweet story of rescued juvenile delinquents, as ever it’s got a sour edge.
Interesting, when looking backwards from Meadow’s most recent, This Is England ’86, to 24 7, you can trace the developments of certain characters, certain themes and certain techniques. 24 7 for instance introduces Gadget, a character repeated in a stronger, more developed form in This Is England.
Some have criticised Meadows for repetitive plotlines; and true, essentially each film is another shot of British life, the youth culture, dire straits, but at the end of the day that repetition is Britain. The decades before us are merely prerequisites to contemporary society, the core the same but with slight differences along the way.
In interview, Joseph Gilgun (Woody, This Is England) poignantly said, “The kids in the ‘80s weren’t dissimilar to how we are now … what was important for us wasn’t researching the ‘80s; it was just being your bloody self.” (Guardian, 2010).
Thus, Meadows’ earlier films should be seen as the preambles of his later, more realised work.
24 7: Twenty Four Seven, dir. Shane Meadows (1997, UK)