Review: Heaven knows Morrissey biopic England Is Mine is miserable

Jack Lowden as Steven Patrick Morrissey and Jessica Brown Findlay as Linder Sterling in England Is M

Jack Lowden as Steven Patrick Morrissey and Jessica Brown Findlay as Linder Sterling in England Is Mine. Photo: Entertainment One - Credit: Entertainment One

Set before Steven Patrick Morrissey became the iconic lead singer of The Smiths, Mark Gill's slow-burning biographical drama charts his formative years as he wrestles with his demons in the bedroom of his parents' home in 1976 Manchester.

Jack Lowden as Steven Patrick Morrissey in Mark Gill's biographical drama England Is Mine. Photo: En

Jack Lowden as Steven Patrick Morrissey in Mark Gill's biographical drama England Is Mine. Photo: Entertainment One - Credit: Archant

England Is Mine (15)

**

The Mancunian music biopic has an esteemed pedigree with the magnificent Factory Record film 24 Hour Party People and the Ian Curtis film Control.

I guess it was inevitable that The Smiths would be dealt with in someway but this telling of the early pre-fame days of Steven Patrick Morrissey is an adolescent gloom fest so over wrought you may have to bite your fist to avoid a fit of the giggles.


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Its biggest problem is that it takes Morrissey at face value. I think most fans of The Smiths always assumed there was an element of jest in those gloomy lyrics; that lines like 'I was looking for a job, and then I found a job, and heaven knows I'm miserable now,' or 'The rain falls hard on a humdrum town,' were at least partially ironic. His autobiography though suggested that he was exactly the po-faced misery gut his detractors painted him.

Jack Lowden as Steven Patrick Morrissey in Mark Gill's biographical drama England Is Mine. Photo: En

Jack Lowden as Steven Patrick Morrissey in Mark Gill's biographical drama England Is Mine. Photo: Entertainment One - Credit: Entertainment One

The film begins with him contemplating suicide and the makers of this piece of fan fiction are determined that not one single chink of light shall be allowed to brush across their beloved martyr's face.

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The other big problem is that you never believe for a single moment that this figure on screen has any connection to the future pop star.

Jack Lowden calls to mind any number of performers - at times he's like James McAvoy playing the Bug Cort role in Harold and Maude; or Michael Sheen doing a young Alan Bennett playing some rebel without a cause - but never in the least bit Morrissey.

The problem with choosing to make a film about him when he was a nobody waiting for the world to acclaim his genius, is that it has no genius to show us. There's none of the music, obviously, this being entirely unauthorised.

He is constantly scribbling notes in his pad, but the only lines we get to hear is his assertion that everybody in the world is an idiot, except him, a line written down by every other teenager in the world. There is no wit, or hint of talent to leaven his arrogance and insufferable self regard.

Steven Patrick would find his niche as part of a double act. The audience spends the whole film waiting for the, much teased, much foreshadowed, arrival of Johnny Marr (Laurie Kynaston). But we also know that it will be too little too late.

The movie is a comically ill conceived venture, but not without talent. Director Mark Gill stages the scenes well and his presentation of late 1970s/early 80s Manchester as a perpetually overcast goldfish bowl of misery is thorough.

You suspect that Lowden has talent and could excel in a role suited to him: his version of Morrissey is a disastrous conception, but a very well performed disastrous conception.

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