Movie review of “London Town”: A fictional friendship between a burdened teen (Daniel Huttlestone) and the Clash’s Joe Strummer (Jonathan Rhys Meyer) is at the improbable if spirited heart of this punk-era story. Rating: 2.5 stars out of 4.
Though the seminal British punk band the Clash is central to the fanciful, fitfully winning drama “London Town,” the movie is certainly not about them.
Yet as contrived as “London Town” is — with a derivative coming-of-age story and improbable, fateful encounters between a struggling teen and Clash frontman Joe Strummer — there is something here of the group’s early, principled spirit.
Formed in 1976 during Thatcher-era budget cuts, economic malaise and the rise of anti-immigrant violence, the Clash’s songs and political stances assailed government policies, racism and middle-class complacency. Yet their politics had less to do with ideology than with navigating a soul-deadening modern world of distraction and hypocrisy.
Movie Review ★★½
‘London Town,’ with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Daniel Huttlestone, Dougray Scott, Natascha McElhone, Nell Williams. Directed by Derrick Borte, from a screenplay by Matt Brown. 92 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences. Sundance Cinemas (21+).
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That’s what “London Town” — with vigorous, atmospheric direction by Derrick Borte (“The Joneses”) — is about: a kid choosing between resignation or independence.
Fifteen-year-old Shaye (Daniel Huttlestone) has a dead-end existence as the eldest child of a struggling, single father (Dougray Scott). When he’s not being bullied, he handles all domestic duties and works in his dad’s failing piano store. His estranged mother (Natascha McElhone) inadvertently changes Shaye’s life one day by sending him music by the Clash.
A chance meeting with an enigmatic punk-rock girl (Nell Williams) leads to Shaye’s too-coincidental encounters with Strummer (an engaging Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who dispenses humor and wisdom.
With its boyhood-to-manhood tropes (growing up means getting a girl’s attention and winning an idol’s respect), “London Town” can’t be taken too seriously. But it’s nice to see part of the Clash’s populist legacy in a fan’s journey.