England is Mine (15)

Three stars

Dir: Mark Gill

With: Jack Lowden, Jessica Brown Findlay

Runtime: 93 minutes

THOUGH described as an “unauthorised portrait” of Morrissey, I rather fancy the old gladioli-waving darling would approve of England is Mine, which screened last night [Sunday] as the closing gala of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

With its fug of Seventies nostalgia, unashamed provincialism, and lashings of personal torment, Mark Gill’s look at Morrissey’s early years, receiving its world premiere in Edinburgh, does the Smiths’ frontman proud. It’s all here, the dead end jobs, the lethal sarcasm and the crippling sensitivity, with emotion only ever a scratch of the surface away.

Morrissey might also be pleased with the choice of Jack Lowden to play him. Though Lowden is far too pretty, he sounds the very dab once the singer finally gets round to doing his thing. That takes a long time though, with Gill passing the time with some neat ideas (a shot of swirling water as a metaphor for emotional turbulence, for example) which he then ruins through overuse. Similarly, he spends too long, like the subject of the piece, in the doldrums. Watching endless scenes of someone depressed can be, well, depressing.

Still, Lowden is superb, ditto Jessica Brown Findlay as his art school gal pal who finally spurs Morrissey to action. The film ends, neatly, with one of Manchester’s finest getting down to work with some guy called Johnny Marr. Fans will know the story from there.

UK release August 4

Alison Rowat