Commissioned by the Eurostar train company as part of the promotional campaign for its new high-speed rail service from London to Paris, Shane Meadows' Somers Town may merit a footnote in film history as the apotheosis of product placement. But whereas Hollywood long ago sold its soul to corporate America, moviegoers can rest assured that Meadows has managed to retain his. Trains actually figure curiously little in Meadows' tale of a spirited Nottingham youth (the wonderful Thomas Turgoose, who was the skinhead initiate in Meadows' previous This Is England) who travels to London with all his worldly possessions on his back, and a Polish teen (newcomer Piotr Jagiello), whose recently divorced dad is one of the laborers building the new Eurostar line. The two boys meet by chance and become fast friends, and, without ever trivializing his characters' meager circumstances or resorting to the rags-to-riches fantasy of Slumdog Millionaire, Meadows brings an airy, whimsical tone to their adventures through the titular working-class neighborhood adjacent to the St. Pancras train station. The result is a lovely film about the ability of the imagination to offset the harshness of reality, and the hopefulness—perhaps earned, perhaps illusory—that has come with the disappearing borders (and, OK, fast trains) of the new Europe. SCOTT FOUNDAS
Turgoose discovers the big city.
Runs at Varsity, Fri., Sept. 18–Thurs., Sept. 24. Not rated. 70 minutes.