If I Could Turn Back Time: Lol and Kelly in This Is England ’88

If you remember my Anglophilia and my passion for things from the past, you may realize my excitement when I found out that Shane Meadows, the director of This Is England, was to release This Is England ’88, the third chapter of a story started in 2006, when the movie first came out. Last year it was the turn of This Is England ’86 (a short series of 4 episodes) and last week other three episodes were released.

The style of the female characters –  a close-knit circle of strong girls – has fascinated me since I watched the movie: in that case, most of them sported Chelsea haircuts and a skingirl style (except for Smell, who channelled her inner Strawberry Switchblade instead), but in this mini-series it has evolved. I’ll devote four posts to them, starting with Lol (Vicky McClure) and Kelly (Chanel Cresswell), who are respectively the protagonist and her younger sister.

Lol is an incredible character: she’s gone through many tragic events in her life (as shown in This Is England ’86), but she’s always managed to stay true to herself, and her style shows it. She’s a skinbyrd at heart and keeps on wearing some staple items – jeans, black Dr Martens, plaid shirts and Fred Perry polo shirts. In 1988 she’s a single mother, who’s battling with loneliness, depression and ghosts from the past; she’s a broken woman, so her clothes are mostly dark and plain.

In 1986 she sported short bleached hair, but now her hair is black and a bit longer. The screencap above is taken from the opening scene of the first episode: she’s waking up after a hard night (her adorable daughter, Lisa, has a troubled sleep pattern), wearing mismatched pajamas.

Later in the episode, she goes to a community health center: the apparent reason is Lisa’s troubled sleep, but she’s actually crying for help because she’s on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In this scene, she’s wearing a sort of uniform, which includes high-waisted light-denim jeans, her trusty black Dr Martens, a dark grey sweater and a black coat.

In the last part of the episode, she receives a visit from her friend Trev (Danielle Watson), who will spend the night at her place. Lol is wearing the top of her mismatched pajamas again (a grey t-shirt) and black pants. The two girls have a lot in common: they were raped by Lol’s father [1] and are true to their style: trends may come and go, but they’re always the same, with some minor changes.

In the morning, Lol finally decides to go back to the community health center to talk to Evelyn (Helen Behan), a nurse she met the day before. In this case, she sports a black Fred Perry polo shirt with white trims and laurel wreath, jeans and a black coat. In the screencap above, one of her tattoos is visible – a heart on her upper arm.

Later in the episode, she meets the father of her child, Milky (Andrew Shim) at her mother’s house. This is the only moment in the whole mini-series in which she resembles her old self: she’s wearing a beige and black plaid shirt (all buttoned) and her hairstyle is similar to the one she had two years before. There are many memorable moments in this episode, but one is surely the happy expression (probably the only truly happy one) she has when she sees her daughter there. McClure’s rendition of this character is impressive [2]: she perfectly portrays the despair and the helplessness of a depressed mother, besides the fact that she deals with the memory of her father, a scary figure who seems determined to stay with her forever.

Kelly, Lol’s younger sister, is very different from her: in the movie, they had a similar style, but in This Is England ’86 Kelly started to express her personality with pink hair and punk-ish clothes, an evolution which continues up to 1988. Despite the differences between them (Kelly is a party girl, while Lol admits she’s a mother and doesn’t feel like spending her night partying, like she maybe used to do in the past), they’re very close; Kelly is very concerned for her sister and she’s the one who saves her when she attempts to commit suicide.

We first meet Kelly at a pub, where’s she’s hanging out with her circle of friends: her stylish outfit is extravagant and heavily influenced by punk. Her hair is not pink anymore but blue-black, and her clothes are black and white – a white tank top under a black laced top, leather mini-skirt over patterned leggings, fingerless gloves and chains decorating the skirt. She sports this outfit all through the first episode.

In the second and in the third episodes, she sports a different version of the first outfit, with some studded accessories and a more aggressive mood. This is an outfit worn by Kelly to spend a night out with her friends: they go to see Shaun play his first role at a school performance, and then they hang out in different places. She’s wearing a leopard-printed top, a very low-cut gold studded top, a black and white miniskirt with front lacing and white lace leggings.

She completes her outfit with white leather choker and upper arm bracelet, both studded. In the screencap above, we can see that her hairstyle includes a tiny long braid, contrasting with her short cut. It’s true that this style is the natural evolution of what she looked like two years before, but here she’s barely wearing any make-up, while in the past it was definitely heavier.

In this scene, Kelly and Lol hug each other, a very touching moment. We can see Kelly is wearing white Dr Martens with black details.

Later in the episode, Kelly and her friends run into Woody (Lol’s ex-boyfriend) and Jennifer, his new girl. This is one of the best scenes of the series, because Woody is finally starting to face what happened in the past two years: the tension with his ex best friend Milky explodes, but you can really feel that in their fight there’s more regret and sadness than anger, which is all the more so heart-breaking. Here we can also see the complete outfit of Kelly, which includes a black leather biker jacket, embellished with buckles and studs.

If you still haven’t watched this series, please do because it’s one of the most intense and true-to-life things I’ve seen on tv. As for the style of its female protagonists, stay tuned because I’ll soon write another post about it.

[1] I know Johnny Harris plays a hideous role – he’s THE villain, a violent father and a rapist – but I think his performance is flawless and astounding. His presence in this mini-series is purely symbolical, but any time he appears on screen, he scares me to death.

[2] She’s a great actress: in May 2011 she received a BAFTA mask at the Philips British Academy Television Awards for her role in This Is England ’86 and I hope she’ll receive the same award as Best Leading Actress again.

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