London Town is a charming – if slightly implausible – tale of the capital and its undercurrents in 1979. It’s also about diligent teenager Shay (Huttlestone) letting loose at just the time when more responsibilities than ever are heaped upon him. The plot is nothing revolutionary, with tension at home between Shay and his dad (a thoroughly dependable Scott), a glamorous girl teaming up with our underdog hero, and a summer holiday ripe with possibilities. Then you drop in a chance encounter with Joe Strummer, and bosh – it’s a proper Brit flick.
Daniel Huttlestone is hugely likeable as Shay, mixing spunky spirit with his gawkishness; he is to be rooted for, not pitied. The supporting cast is great too, with Scott (such a good dad), Tom Hughes (such a good “Mum’s boyfriend”) and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (such a good Strummer).
Everyone’s ‘decent’ though, from punk Vivian taking a chance on a square boy from Wanstead to all the randomers living in Shay’s mother’s squat. This gives the film a “feel good” sheen, but is somewhat unrealistic – and pedestrian – characterisation. The only character given edges is Shay’s errant mum, selfishly taking advantage of those around her.
1979 is nicely displayed in London Town, if a little unsubtly dealt with politically speaking – there are obvious plot mechanics in motion. Meyers, as a proclaiming voice of the time (and this film), has the recognisable Strummer cockney rasp going on, as well as a healthy swagger, and is right at home in this iconic character.
Formulaic writing is lifted to a higher level by a talented ensemble plus real stand out performances from Huttlestone and Rhys Meyers – even if their scenes together are contrived. The film’s rabble-rousing also neatly presents this era of change for the capital, both musically and politically.
CAST: Daniel Huttlestone, Dougray Scott, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Nell Williams, Tom Hughes, Natascha McElhone
DIRECTOR: Derrick Borte
WRITER: Matt Brown (screenplay), Sonya Gildea and Kirsten Sheridan (screenplay “Untitled Joe Strummer Project”)
SYNOPSIS: Responsible teenager Shay is left in charge when his single father has an accident at work, so he goes in search of his mother – and his misspent youth – in London, being introduced to the music of The Clash along the way.