A phenomenal movie. This is one of those incredible films that manages to be about one boy, an entire nation, and a moment in history all at once. It's brilliant. It's basically a good hard look at the Skinhead movement in England in the 80s. What's so impressive to me about it is the way in which it very subtly shows the ways that a working class movement becomes inflected with racism, and how this is linked to Britain's actions in the Falklands, which in turn is a reflection on Britain's imperial identity. The characters are complex and multi-faceted and extremely realistic. There's no simplistic villification, but also no apologia for some of their more hideous actions.
It's also interesting in its portrayal of a young kid growing up and being sort of indoctrinated into a political movement. It's not that he's being brainwashed, but at the same time, obviously, he's a kid, so you can't really say that he's making a fully informed rational choice. It's not that he's getting pulled in by promises of lollipops, though certainly there's an element of this being a community that is giving him a kind of love, acceptance, and support that he very much needs, but it's also that they tap into some of his emotional needs that have political consequences. It's kind of an interesting way into thinking about politics and feelings; how closely held and dear to you your political beliefs are, how emotionally engaged you are with what is happening in the world. And how those things that are happening far far away may have tangible effects close to home that you aren't even fully aware of.
Then there's just the beautiful depiction of being a kid, being a skin, having fun with your friends, goofing off. It's so wonderfully done, you have to laugh in recognition. Just marvelous. The acting, by the way, is absolutely fantastic in this movie. Really incredible.
Anyhow, really a must-see film. Highly recommended, though to be fair, I ought to warn you that there are some disturbing scenes.
Incidentally, the movie also has a pretty kickass webpage that includes the main actor's audition tape, which is pretty rad.