During the late 1970s, discontent was rife in London due to the issues that faced the political, social and labour parties. This backdrop, combined with some of the most iconic music from the era, is utilised as means of telling a coming-of-age story that’s brought to us by director Derrick Borte (The Joneses and H8RZ) and writer Matt Brown (The Man Who Knew Infinity). The end result is London Town, a film that is entertaining and enjoyable enough, even if it becomes somewhat predictable along the way.
We follow the film through the character of Shay, a 15-year-old who goes through a “teenage awakening,” questioning everything as the world opens up to him. At the beginning of the film, he’s carrying the burden of babysitting his younger sister and cooking for/working with his struggling two-job dad Nick – plus he dreams of reconciling with his hippie mom Sandrine. Things soon begin to change for Shay as he finds himself connecting with wild girl Vivian over their shared love of music and the Clash while on a commuter train. Along the way, he repeatedly bumps into the Clash singer Joe Strummer (Jonathan Rhys Meyers doing solid work in a glorified cameo role), who bestows some surprisingly grounded philosophy and guidance.
The timing for the film is somewhat unfortunate since it was released the same year as the similar Sing Street, which is superior in many ways due to having a better pace to it and being made by a more seasoned director. This though feels lightweight with not much creativity involved, feeling very pedestrian-like in execution, and not amounting to much in the end. However, there are some good performances throughout with the dynamic between Daniel Huttlestone and Nell Williams standing out in particular. Their chemistry together is touching and sweet, and both give off fully rounded performances that help carry the film.
Overall, London Town still manages to be an enjoyable experience while it’s there, sprinkling in a touch of philosophy for good measure. However, it is ultimately unmemorable, pretty predictable throughout, and pales in comparison to Sing Street, which was much more memorable and iconic.
Dir: Derrick Borte
Scr: Matt Brown
Cast: Daniel Huttlestone, Dougray Scott, Natascha McElhone, Nell Williams, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Prd: Tom Butterfield, Sofia Sondervan, Christine Vachon
DOP: Hubert Taczanowski
Music: Bryan Senti
Run time: 92 mins
London Town is released on DVD on 2nd January.