I have always rather wistfully admired how men in Great Britain and other European countries often refer to their closest male friends as "mates." Two American pals referring to each other in the same manner would definitely raise eyebrows ... not that it should stop them!
The sweet new movie Somers Town, opening in LA this Friday for a limited one-week engagement, illustrates the more European definition of "mates" from the ground up. In it, a young immigrant from Poland, Marek (Piotr Jagiello), befriends a homeless runaway, Tomo (Thomas Turgoose). As is typical for teenaged boys, the two bond over comic books, a desire to make money, and a beautiful, older woman named Maria (Elisa Lasowski).
Marek lives with his rail-laborer father (Ireneusz Czap) in a small apartment. Taking pity on Tomo's predicament, Marek secretly invites his new friend to share his bedroom. As the two engage in increasingly adult behavior such as working and drinking, their arrangement is threatened with exposure.
At the tail end of a summer movie season filled with cartoon and cardboard characters, I admire how everyone in Somers Town is a decent person, save the three young toughs who beat up Tomo in one scene. The film, written by Paul Fraser and directed by Shane Meadows, is at times reminiscent of Y Tu Mamá También, particularly in the boys' camaraderie and mutual interest in the same woman. However, this is a more innocent, non-sexual take on the subject of male-male intimacy.
Somers Town has deservedly been an award recipient at several international film festivals. The movie was recognized as Best New British Feature at the Edinburgh Film Festival, and Jagiello and Turgoose shared the award for Best Actor at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival. Also of note, it is unique among contemporary movies for being shot primarily in black and white, with a profound transition to color toward film's end.
"Mates" of either gender should find much to appreciate in Somers Town.
UPDATE: Somers Town is now available on DVDfrom Amazon.com.
Click here to watch the trailer for Somers Town.
Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.