London Town

Directed by Derrick Borte
Starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Dougray Scott, Natascha McElhone and Daniel Huttlestone
UK Digital Release December 26th, 2016
On UK DVD January 2nd, 2017

by Joanna Orland

For a film called London Town which features the character of Joe Strummer, it’s amazing how little this movie is actually about The Clash. In truth, it is a middling coming-of-age tale about a teenage boy, set to the backdrop of the 1979 Thatcher / Punk Rock era that was ruling London at the time. The essence of The Clash can almost be found in young teenager Shay (Huttlestone) and his behaviour. Sadly, he acts more like a mindless boy who puts himself on the line for a girl rather than a rebellious punk protesting political injustice.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers does a powerful turn as Joe Strummer, the frontman for The Clash who happens to conveniently show up during Shay’s times of need. He’s more like a guardian angel than a musical idol for Shay, to the point that his coincidental appearances would make much more sense if they were merely in Shay’s head. The mystical approach would have served the film better as London Town is more fluff than grit – perhaps fully embracing the fluff would have improved the output.

As Shay is introduced to The Clash’s music by the girl he fancies, his quick transition from innocent boy to broody punk with dyed black hair feels forced, its rapidity alluding to the fact that he’s in it for the girl and not the band. It doesn’t help that his mother is also a punk who left her maternal duties for a freer life in London, again alluding to the fact that Shay’s interest in punk is disingenuous and merely an excuse to bond with the women in his life. Even when Shay meets Strummer himself, he barely recognizes him and is not at all in idolation. There is little emotional engagement for Shay with The Clash, creating a barrier for the audience to engage as such with the film.

Capturing the essence of The Clash and their era, London Town does not do either justice as merely a backdrop to a rather simple teenage tale.



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