“England Is Mine”
Morrissey in Manchester
Mark Gill’s “England Is Mine” focuses on Steven Patrick Morrissey (Jack Lowden) during the late 1970s, leading up to his first meeting with future Smiths band mate Johnny Marr (Laurie Kynaston). We begin with Morrissey as a timid, pessimistic megalomaniac reading Oscar Wilde and waiting for the world to give him the fame and prestige that he thought the world owed him. We see him stuck in his own self-pity and arrogance. Aside from penning songs, poems, and bitchy letters, Steven spends his time scoping out, with the help of his encouraging artist friend, Linder Sterling (Jessica Brown Findlay), prospective bands that are looking for a singer but he refuses to even show up for any of the auditions.
During the first half of the film he obsesses over his somewhat paralyzing shyness but instead of doing something about it, he just sits. We already see the seeds of the kind of man he is to become. When he takes a desk job for Inland Revenue (Britain’s equivalent to the IRS), politics enter the picture and we see his condescension toward his conformist coworkers. Morrissey’s superiority complex and the contempt with which he seems to hold for everyone aside from his mother and friends is evident and so are his base self-flagellating impulses, never delving into the political or sexual contradictions.
But this is just a look at the surface of his abrasive personality. We simply get a glance at his early years and the familiar places and things but he remains moody throughout. He was not yet Morrissey—he was still, at that time, Steven.
In Manchester in 1970, the music scene was changing as it was in the rest of the United Kingdom. Many new artists were slowly finding their voice and one of them was Steven Patrick Morrissey. He struggles to get his big break and after meeting a young artist, he soon finds the inspiration to pursue his dream and the enigmatic Morrissey is born.
Every Morrissey fan has a version of the man in their heads and they expect the actor playing the man should be jut like that. He must possess a mix of wit, sarcasm, and pithiness and Lowden is a poised, measured presence that can do that and does.
Director Gill does well with the material and he hits all of the marks and moments in this type of biopic that are necessary to advance the plot. Focusing on the early years of Morrissey and his personal struggles rather than the music shows us the man without the songs and we cannot help but feel that something is missing. Even though this is an excellent film, it feels like something is missing and that we do not get the full story. But the film is advertised that it is about the early years so we should not be surprised.