There is no better way to end a miserable year than a throwback feel-good coming-of-age story filled with an abundance of nostalgia in the form of a number of tracks from The Clash pumping through the backdrop and veins of the narrative of the story which is based on the screenplay of The Untitled Joe Strummer Project.
Set in 1979 England, London Town follows the story of 14-year-old Shay (Daniel Huttlestone), a kid that has had to grow up real fast when his broken family comes up against hard times as the Tory government, with the newly elected tyrant Margaret Thatcher, causes misery amongst the working classes. His free-spirited Mother Sandrine (Natascha McElhone) no longer lives with them leaving his stressed and hard-working Father, Nick (Dougray Scott) struggling with two jobs and Shay having to look after his little sister. With Shay’s father laid up in hospital, life gets even tougher for Shay as he fills his father’s shoes to earn money to pay the bills – including him dressing up as a woman to make him look older in order to drive a black cab leading to his first encounter with his idol Joe Strummer.
The Rock/Punk influence plays a heavy-handed role in the depths of motivation for young Shay after his introduction to The Clash at his very first gig and the loss of his virginity by his outlandish girlfriend – who is just rebelling against her family background – and this is aided by director Derrick Borte’s use of actual footage from the clashes between police and the Nazi racist skinheads giving a raw English edgy taste quite like a slightly saccharine tall drink with a twist of bitter lemon to quench the thirst.
It’s after one such event after a free concert given in Victoria Park where Shay and Strummer are arrested and thrown into a prison cell together where the pair finally become friends, slightly unconvincingly but heart-warming nonetheless Strummer feels slightly responsible for the kid and invites him to a rehearsal where we see Strummer (and the rest of the mute band) give a rousing rendition of The Clash’s Clampdown. It’s the friendship that is built between rock idol and fan that oozes awkward melting cheese as its left to the cockney front man to come through for Shay when he needs him the most.
It wouldn’t be a The Clash-themed film without the band itself, and playing the infamous Joe Strummer is a man who is no stranger to playing musicians on screen Mr Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Meyers gives a truly superb and inspired performance which is no surprise as Meyers has been seen in various roles from an uncanny resemblance to Elvis, to a Glam Rock Superstar alongside Christian Bale and Ewan McGregor in Velvet Goldmine amongst others all too an understated performance, Just to make his performance even more authentic he sings and plays the guitar himself.
Huttlestone, who stars in his third big screen film, gives a heartfelt performance as the struggling Shay – even though he has had to become the adult way before his time, there is still that child-like innocence trickling through as he deals with his Mother’s nonchalant attitude to life and to her own children – learning that at this time he can only count on himself.
London Town is an imitative story, yes, we have seen the likes before but for all its cheesy flaws it has an equal amount of heart-warming feel good moments and fine performances from its leading cast – Exactly what is needed to escape a truly indifferent year.
London Town will release on digital platforms in the UK and Ireland on Boxing Day 2016 and to DVD on January 2nd, 2017.