Wednesday, 23 August 2017 02:07

‘Bomb the river’: space, class, and masculinity in Shane Meadows' films

Published in Films

Steve Presence looks at the way space, class and masculinity are represented in two films directed by Shane Meadows.

Introducing his book Cinematic Countrysides (2007), Robert Fish emphasises the ‘rich and diverse spatial imagery’ evoked when considering cinematic representations of rural space. Exploring representations of the countryside on film also, however, invites assessment of urban environments, too, given that the categories of ‘city’ and ‘countryside’ rest on upon mutual relations of difference. In this close-analysis of Shane Meadows’ first two full-length feature films, I want to undertake just such an exploration, considering the similarities and differences in the representation of rural, urban, and coastal space in TwentyFourSeven (1997) and A Room for Romeo Brass (1999).

I want to look at this portrayal of environment with a specific context in mind. Meadows is a social-realist filmmaker, and many elements of his work can be traced back through the long and complex tradition of social-realist filmmaking in Britain. All his films to date, for example, are concerned thematically with the working class and with stories of the everyday, and are characteristically feature location-shooting, improvisation, and an observational aesthetic that foregrounds, as I will show, the effects of environment upon human development. Yet Meadows’ particular brand of social-realism is also very much a contemporary one in that, in addition to drawing on a more eclectic range of styles than the realisms before it, it also engages with what Julia Hallam calls the ‘pervasive contemporary theme’ of a ‘crisis in masculinity wrought by changes in the industrial infrastructure of post-industrial, post-colonial global economies’.

Set in towns and cities once characterised by thriving industrial and manufacturing economies, these films depict communities in which the working-class of the British documentary movement, Free Cinema, and subsequent New Wave, have become the long-term unemployed. In such post-Thatcherite contexts, traditionally productive masculine occupations are unavailable. Thus, instead of constituting their identities around what they produce, the men of these ‘post-working-classes’ define themselves more in terms of their power to consume.

Therefore, I want to frame my consideration of Meadows’ representation of space from the perspective of these debates about the relationship between consumption and masculinity. What follows, then, should be read as an attempt to begin thinking about Meadows’ work in light of this theory, and to hopefully contribute towards a possible understanding of his work in the context of this changing landscape of contemporary British social-realism.

TwentyFourSeven

TwentyFourSeven was Meadows’ first feature after his initial attempt with the hour-long Smalltime, a comedy-take on the gangster genre which Claire Monk noted for its exploration of ‘crime as a gendered phenomenon’ and its ‘genuine origins in the (non-)working-class community it depicted’. TwentyFourSeven continues this interest in working class masculinities, and concerns the attempts of self-professed ‘forgotten thirty-something’, Alan Darcy (Bob Hoskins), to establish a boxing gym on his estate, in the hope of offering its unemployed (male) inhabitants alternatives to the lives of drugs and petty crime that otherwise await them.

These bleak prospects are suggested in the opening take. A slow, melancholic guitar-riff bridges the fade from black into a static long-shot of a disused and overgrown railway-line, and Tim’s (Danny Nussbaum) figure slowly emerges from the background as he walks his dog along the track towards the camera. The stationary camera, forty-five second take, sorrowful music and grainy, washed-out tones of the black-and-white footage, combine to construct this urban space as forgotten and marginalised, one in which time lingers, marked by an absence of educational or occupational activity.

Inside Tim’s flat, another similarly long, slow take introduces his domestic space. Panning across his small kitchen in mid-shot as he makes tea, the framing here emphasises the room’s restricted size. Although an interior scene, the soundtrack is one of children playing outside, and so this interiority is carefully located in the wider community at large. While not an overtly negative moment, the private intimacy of Tim’s personal space is nevertheless paradoxically used to suggest the lack of privacy in this environment. Darcy’s voice-over-poem, introducing the film’s first montage sequence, then confirms this absence of privacy and places these environments and their characters in their proper socio-economic context:

… in the 80s, everything was a boom, a transaction, or a big take-over. Money was God. Money is God … I feel as though I’m a casualty. But that’s cool, because most of us feel that way // Housing development. Housing development of what? Two-thousand people in an area that should be two-hundred, maximum. Development’s a cagey word, it’s like ‘fresh-frozen’ … Tim lives with his family in one of these houses ...

Elevated long-shots then accompany and corroborate these words, showing miles of council-housing crammed together. The gendered economic relations between the characters are then illustrated by slow, tracking close-ups on Tim’s family: his father, Geoff (Bruce Jones), asleep on the sofa while his mother, Pat (Annette Badland), works at the ironing.

Tim, meanwhile, in a typical depiction of Meadows’ protagonists’ most intimate space, is shown sitting on his mattress on the floor of his bedroom. The window above him, though lighting the shot, is cut out of the frame, neatly removing any associations with escape that such an outlet might connote. Instead, the image is filled with Tim’s cramped form in the corner of the room, and this claustrophobic composition mirrors his cornered position in society.

The economic constraints on his class are also indicated in this scene, albeit comically, as Geoff shouts at his son about the £2.50 cost of his missing toothbrush and stolen Strepsils, before a close-up on Pat’s frightened face in the next room reveals the realities of the financial poverty from which such inane arguments originate. Violence, shown to be rife in this environment, is also subtlety linked to economic poverty. In an earlier shot from the montage, for example, Tim is shown with what appears to be a fading black-eye, and when Geoff shouts at him in the aforementioned scene to ‘get up!’ it is presumably to strike him. Then later, one gang spit on their chips, for example, to prevent another stealing them, and once more only narrowly avoid a fight.

The first scene set beyond the confines of this enclosed urbanity shows the boys walking through some woods. In contrast to the angry interactions in town, here conversation is light and comic. Topics of debate, for instance, range from whether ‘Dundee’ biscuits are made in Scotland or their hometown of Uttoxeter, to the most productive means of fishing (‘bomb the river’ is one suggestion), and whether bees sting or bite. The banality and humour of these exchanges signifies this rural space as one in which the boys may relax and amuse themselves, free from the ever-present threat of violence in the town.

Significantly though, even here their class position is evident from the entirely inappropriate designer clothing they wear for such surroundings. As I have already mentioned, for these members of the long-term unemployed their identity is constituted less by what they produce than by what they consume. In this economic context, then, the striking emphasis on the Nike logo of Gadget’s (Justin Brady) hat as he leans into the frame, or the Kappa symbol of Knighty’s (James Hooton) jacket are indicative of a class position which is characterised by a marked lack of productivity.

Marx and Engels argued that relations of exchange were ‘the foundation [on which] the bourgeoisie built itself up’, since manufacture and trade were the means by which they became richer and more powerful than feudal lords. Consumerism, Gary Day says, ‘is the ally of exchange, since the perception of people in terms of their possessions parallels the perception of commodities in terms of money’ (182). Therefore, argues Day,

‘the spread of consumerism strengthens the abstract system of representation which lies at the heart of capitalism, making it difficult to develop alternative forms of viewing the social order’ (182).

In this respect, then, one might argue that the boys organising their cultural identities around commodity consumption signifies the absolute triumph of capitalist ideology, it having become hegemonic even in the poorest areas of society where the failings of capitalism are most apparent. This argument becomes all the more persuasive considering the ways in which the competition for money, wealth and power that governs mainstream society also forms the principle behind the subcultures of crime, prostitution and drugs which are so widespread in underclass areas. – see also Meadows’s Dead Men’s Shoes, 2004. Though extant outside the law, these activities nevertheless operate according to the accepted values of establishment capitalism.

In TwentyFourSeven, Ronnie (Frank Harper) is the embodiment of this criminal element of working class life. In spite of Darcy’s perceptive comment that ‘it doesn’t matter how much or how little you have, if you’ve never had anything to believe in then you’re always going to be poor’, he accepts Ronnie’s aid which leads the ill-prepared club into the competitive bouts that ultimately result in its destruction. Ronnie is also, however, one of the four fathers to the boys which feature in the narrative and as such is also representative of another of TwentyFourSeven’s themes: the role of father-figures in the domestic milieu of young working class masculinity.

This theme is explicitly indicated in two parallel-editing sequences in the film, the first of which occurs just after the gym has been established. Next to the abusive Geoff, Ronnie appears the most uncaring of the four: when Darcy curiously enquires whether ‘Tonker’ is the real name of Ronnie’s son, Carl (James Corden), Ronnie replies ‘Nah, it’s his nickname ’cause he’s fat. Isn’t that right Tonks?’ This selfish, uncaring attitude is then confirmed when Ronnie explains why it is he who wants Carl to learn to box:

… he could come down to your club and you could train him up a bit … he’d lose some weight, his confidence would come back, me and his new mum could come to all his fights and I could start putting me life into some semblance of order. What do you think? Can he fucking come?

This scene is inter-cut with Gadget’s father bragging of his own past capabilities in the ring, as a demoralized Gadget literally sits in his shadow in the attic light, clearly aware of the impossibility of ever matching his father’s imaginary skill. The next scene, meanwhile, shows Knighty’s dad utterly ignoring his son’s new interests in favour of lamenting the continued losses of the youth football team he manages. Finally, Geoff belittles Tim, before hitting him and threatening his mother. These relations recur again when the gym features in the local paper, and serve to illustrate the ways in which selfish, vicarious, disinterested or downright abusive patriarchal forces constitute a significant obstacle within the characters’ urban environment.

In preparation for the competition, however, Darcy takes the club to the Welsh countryside, and once again they show potential when outside the oppressive environment of their estate. The effects that such an environment has already had on the boys, however, are made all too clear when Darcy’s enthusiastic announcement of the trip is met with a stony silence and tentative, apprehensive questions. Clearly, the lack of opportunities which has characterised the boys’ lives thus far has engendered an indifference and scepticism which limits their ability to capitalise on advantageous circumstances when they do present themselves.

Once again, then, these individuals’ impoverished urban environment is portrayed as having significantly hindered their development. In the end, an exasperated Darcy has to order the boys to come on the trip. The expedition is then represented in the form of another montage sequence in which the freedom that rural space permits is again emphasised via framing and The Charlatans’ uplifting song, ‘North Country Boy’, on the soundtrack. The first take of this sequence foregrounds an emphasis on the spatial. Opening with an image of a beautiful valley and rolling hills beyond, the characters enter the screen from the left, move across the bottom of the frame, and then exit the shot on the right, leaving the viewer’s eye on the setting.

In this, and almost every subsequent shot, from the boys playing Frisbee or tug-of-war to spear-fishing, the beauty of the Welsh landscape is celebrated by long-shots with strong depth-of-field, in which the action taking place in the foreground is almost secondary to the environment in the background. The friendly camaraderie depicted in the boys’ interactions with each other then articulates the positive impact such surroundings have on their behaviour. In one shot, for instance, Stuart (Karl Collins) and Knighty run up a hill and celebrate together when they reach the top.

Considering these two nearly fought outside the chip-shop before, this scene illustrates the kind of positive outcomes encouraged by such surroundings. Furthermore, in contrast to the individualism of their sportswear earlier, another shot significantly shows them all wearing identical white ponchos, and this sense of community is emphasised by the night-time scene in which, sat around their campfire, Darcy and the boys have their backs to the camera, and the resultant exclusion of the audience underlines the unity within the group.

Upon their return to the estate, however, the negative forces of their environment soon undo the sense of belief and confidence achieved on the trip. This is most clearly represented in Fagash’s relapse back into drug abuse which, without denying his own complicity in it, is portrayed as a likely consequence considering the degenerate space in which he lives. The first time Darcy visits the flat, he walks down a long line of doors from which can be heard dogs barking, and people arguing and fighting. Inside, Fagash sat undressed on bare wooden floorboards surrounded by beer bottles, marijuana paraphernalia, and rubbish, awaiting the effects of a temazepam hit. This time, he is passed-out on the couch, and as Darcy smashes his way in the same soundtrack from outside remains, and makes for a powerful image of social deprivation as he regards Fagash in the take, and subsequent montage, that follows.


If Fagash is explicitly represented as a victim of his environment, then the selfish, individualist values of Ronnie’s lawless capitalism are represented even more clearly as he splits Darcy’s head open as punishment for Ronnie’s name being left out of the publicity for the bouts. Although the final act of near-murderous violence comes from Darcy himself, this self-destructiveness, I would argue, is portrayed as emerging from a deeper sense of frustration and powerlessness as his attempts to build a better environment for those in his community are thwarted by forces beyond his control. Furthermore, the boys’ response is similarly motivated by feelings of hopelessness, despair and anger as they burn the gym down. A negative and destructive act, certainly, but perhaps the only one such an environment offers or understands.

A Room for Romeo Brass

In contrast to TwentyFourSeven, A Room for Romeo Brass opens in the countryside as next-door neighbours Gavin (Ben Marshall) and Romeo (Andrew Shim) stroll across a field in mid-shot, the camera tracking left as they walk, then remaining static as they reach a tree and rest. Meadows’ composition divides the shot between the boys in the foreground and the expanse of countryside in the background, and this juxtaposition emphasises the beauty of the landscape, which they acknowledge. Yet Gavin’s comment: ‘I’d like to build a house out here’, is met with Romeo’s: ‘Talk a load of bollocks you do’, before their conversation degenerates into a comedic, disinterested squabble.

The humorous banality of this scene thus constructs rural space as one of recreation and relaxation, and yet their reluctance to pursue Gavin’s fantasy indicates their impoverished aspirations in much the same way as the urban wasteland in TwentyFourSeven’s opening sequence indicates the limited opportunities open to Tim. As they move back into the urban space of the town, another humorous scene illustrates a further serious point as a lack of money causes the two friends to bicker. The cashier in a fish-and-chip shop, assuming Romeo is buying Gavin chips, asks Gavin if he would like them open or wrapped when Romeo interrupts: ‘Hey ... He’s not having any, they’re not for him … If you want chips you bring money, you bring money. I brought money here’. Though comic, this scene helps construct their class position as one in which money is scarce. This sentiment is emphasised again when Romeo, having eaten most of his family’s chips on the way home, incurs his mother’s anger: ‘I wanted curry, but I didn’t have enough change in my purse. But you! You had to eat our chips as well!’

A much more callous selfishness manifests itself later on in Gavin’s father, Bill (James Higgins), as he refuses to return the football two young boys have kicked into his garden. Pushing past one boy and roughly throwing another to the ground, he taunts: ‘Eh? Eh? You want that don’t you? No chance’. As in TwentyFourSeven, then, we can see how irresponsible adult male role-models are constructed as a negative force in the characters’ social milieu. Later in the film, Romeo’s father, Joe (Frank Harper), is also depicted in a negative light, although his is an altogether more sinister, threatening character than Bill, as the cinematography of his introductory scene indicates. The camera is positioned behind Romeo’s mum, Carol (Ladene Hall), as she prepares dinner in her cramped kitchen.

The next shot, looking out the kitchen window as Joe moves towards it from outside, is out of focus and fragmented by the reflection of the kitchen’s interior layered over the exterior image. Given the viewers’ knowledge that Carol is unaware of it, Joe’s approach, coupled with Beth Orton’s song about an abusive partner on the soundtrack, is particularly unnerving. Romeo’s subsequent highly-charged and expletive-ridden encounter with his estranged father shows the effect of this violent potential in his life as the youngster assumes an aggressively adult stance towards him: ‘Fuck-off out the house. When I come back I want you out’.

If violence is a part of their domestic environment, it is equally endemic to the urban surroundings, as the scene in which Gavin and Romeo are attacked in the park by two older boys demonstrates. Having rescued the boys from their attackers, Morell (Paddy Considine) drives them back to their homes, and an extreme-long-shot, encompassing the entire suburb and the fields beyond, follows his car as it drives from the far-distance into the foreground, eventually tilting into a birds-eye-view shot as he parks outside their houses. Representing the space in this way elevates the audience from the environment and the events taking place within it.

The urban space is thus organised into a documentary-like, observational structure which locates the fight in the wider milieu of the estate, and thereby depicts it as a social, rather than an individual, problem. Furthermore, as Morell drives down the road, hammering and other noises of the working-day can be heard: activities which all of the male characters in the film are significantly excluded from. Thus, the community problem of violence on the estate is also associated with the specific class position of the (non)working-class.

Representing masculinity and class

While such establishing shots shift the film’s focus towards wider debates around class and economics, when the narrative resumes the consequences such attacks have on individuals are, as in TwentyFourSeven, reflected in the depiction of Romeo asleep in his bedroom. His mother, sitting on his bed, smoking, appears sad, and the mise-en-scene and framing encapsulates this trapped, inescapable sense of sadness. Romeo’s bed is pressed up against the back wall, facing the camera side-on. Yet the shallow depth-of-field in the shot also places the bed in the foreground, near the bottom of the frame. The wall on the left of the shot is clearly visible, as is the door on the right: these characters are literally framed in a box. The camera then slowly zooms in, to an accompaniment of dysphoric guitar strings, intensifying an already claustrophobic atmosphere. This shot is ostensibly lit by a bulb inside the traffic-island road-sign that forms Romeo’s nightlight. In addition to its comedy value, such a prop underlines the urban location of the financial poverty it indicates, and thus links the spatial representation of Romeo’s family with the class position they occupy.

As in TwentyFourSeven, A Room for Romeo Brass defines this class position via consumerism, which is here linked explicitly with Morell’s desire for sexual attractiveness. Attempting to woo Romeo’s sister, Ladine (Vicky McClure), he elicits Gavin’s advice, who tells him that ‘although fifty per-cent of it is her liking you, fifty per-cent of it is clothes. You could probably get away with your hair but [with] clothes like that there’s no way she’s going to like you’. At Morell’s behest Gavin then goes into Ladine’s workplace to gather information on her tastes. Having discovered she prefers smart clothing, Gavin tricks Morell, telling him the opposite.

The comedy of this scene also reveals a highly sophisticated knowledge of consumerist identities on Gavin’s part, however, as the confident, assured manner in which he relays the wrong information to Morell indicates: ‘shellies, track-suits, trainers, flip-flops, visors, hats, woolly-hats, peaked-caps, puffy-coats. All the sports stuff, you know?’ Transforming himself into Ladine’s ultimate turn-off with a bright purple track-suit and green visor, Morell then reveals the depths of his commodity fetishism, declaring to the boys: ‘It’s the new me. Spectacular isn’t it?’ As the extent of Gavin’s deception dawns on Morell, however, his potentially violent nature is, like Ronnie in TwentyFourSeven, prefigured in his use of an expletive: ‘You [Romeo]. You can come with me. But you [Gavin], you better fucking stay away from me’.

This violence first becomes a reality when the boys and Morell take a trip to the beach. At first though, this space and the journey towards it is constructed in the same way as the visit to Wales in TwentyFourSeven, as offering excitement and freedom from the oppressive confines of their urban environment. A series of long-shots of the cross-country drive establishes the sequence as a journey, delineating the space as a marginal one, and once again the banalities of their conversation signal a relaxed and amiable atmosphere. Switching the song on the soundtrack from the upbeat, diegetic melodies on the car radio to more ambiguous, non-diegetic tones marks their arrival at the beach and subsequent montage sequence. As in TwentyFourSeven, the landscape takes precedence here, the first scene mirroring the earlier film almost exactly as a long-shot depicts them walking along the shore in single-file. Dwarfed by the sand, ocean, and sky, massive above them, they move across the frame from left to right, just as Darcy and the boys did before.

In contrast to TwentyFourSeven, though, the montage here adopts a more elegiac, plaintive tone as static shots of the boys staring out to sea is inter-cut with scenes of Gavin being explicitly left-out, glumly waiting in the foreground, for instance, as Morell and Romeo ride a carousel. Then, left alone with Morell as Romeo goes to buy ice-creams, Gavin experiences the explosive reality of Morell’s aggression as he threatens him with a screw-driver. The shocking fear and pathos created by such a moment is then exploited by Meadows’ production of the classic melodramatic discrepancy ‘between the knowledge and point of view of the spectator and the knowledge and point of view of the characters’ (Mercer, 2004, 81). Romeo, returning from the ice-cream van, has no idea of the violence Gavin has just experienced and so, prompted by Morell, ignores his friends suffering. Such a conclusion to their trip, then, demonstrates how although spaces on the margins can offer freedoms, they can also harbour dangers beyond the scope of adult surveillance and protection.

Upon their return to town, three subsequent montage sequences work to situate these dangers around a set of specifically masculine problems. First, Morell is shown deepening the divide between the two friends as he and Romeo begin to avoid Gavin, spending more and more time alone with each other. Crucially, this is explained in part by Romeo’s lack of a positive male role-model at home, leaving him vulnerable when exposed to the deviant masculinity of Morell, who offers him the time and attention he needs. When Romeo asks if he minds him coming to his flat, for instance, Morell replies: ‘Let me tell you something, from my heart: that door is open twenty-four hours a day, and you’re welcome in it, anytime. You didn’t even have to ask me that – you’re welcome. I know what it’s like, man, when you’re not getting on with your dad’.

The second montage then depicts Gavin’s experience of his resultant isolation and loneliness, as he lies bedridden following his operation, spending his time learning magic tricks and writing stories. Moments of narrative woven around these scenes then show how, as Morell moves closer towards the domestic environment of the boys, the marginalised dangers he represents begin to gradually manifest themselves in the urban space of the estate, culminating in his near rape of Ladine and subsequent attack on Romeo when he visits Morell’s flat.

The third montage details the ensuing separation and confusion felt by the male characters in the film and, I would argue, suggests these problems stem from the altered and broken-down masculine relations in the film, particularly in relation to an absence of father-figures. Gavin, Romeo, and Morell are all shown by themselves, while the latter is depicted on the bed in what he referred to earlier, in past-tense, as his dad’s old flat. We know from his earlier conversation with Romeo that Morell was abused at the hands of his father yet ‘never stopped loving him’, and while this familial dysfunction does not justify Morell’s behaviour, it does help explain it. Joe is similarly alone; smoking outside his van by the garages, and the effect of his absence is brilliantly captured by the next shot of Romeo’s lonely expression in focus in the foreground watching television, separated from the other, all female, members of the audience.

Morell’s final two explosions of violence arguably stem from this emotional context of troubled masculinities, and are firmly located within the urban social milieu of the estate. The first is a response to what he perceives as a threat to his masculinity, as Ladine chats to another young man in her shop. As the man leaves, Morell drives up behind him, climbs out of his car and subjects the man a vicious and prolonged assault. The attack is filmed in a single, minute-long take, accentuating its brutality and realism. Yet it is the slow zoom out as Morell continues the attack that foregrounds the environment in which it takes place; as the sound of the beating recedes, other more common noises complement the expanding image as the scope of the frame increases. Morrell then goes to Gavin’s house where, unprovoked, he punches Gavin’s dad to the ground.

Although this choice of victim appears spontaneous, one might argue that it is perhaps also triggered by a jealousy towards Gavin’s relatively solid family unit, an argument confirmed by the father, a source of anguish for Morell, being the target for the attack. Armed with a hammer later, just as it appears Morrell will murder Bill, Joe arrives and, dealing out his own brand of violence to Morell, saves the day. This melodramatic trope of the last-minute rescue is then located back into the spatial environment of the neighbourhood, as what begins as a close-up on Joe comforting Bill zooms out and up, ending with the documentary-like, observational birds-eye-view shot explained earlier. Distancing the audience from the events they have just witnessed in this way thus again encourages an analytical, rather than an emotional, assessment of characters and the environment in which they live.

In both these films, urban spaces are consistently represented as bleak, threatening and hopeless. By contrast, I have tried to show how countryside locales are constructed as relaxing and recreational spaces that permit freedoms and unlock potentials. The coastal space in A Room for Romeo Brass, meanwhile, initially associated with such freedom and excitement, becomes the site of an unexpectedly frightening and dangerous experience. However, this is not to suggest that Meadows produces a closed, pairing-off of spatial meanings, with the rural constructed as positive space and the coastal as negative, but rather that these are both polysemic spaces in which meaning is never guaranteed.

Investigating the ambivalent freedoms associated with seaside locations, Rob Shields has noted how, from the beginning of the nineteenth century, beaches had become ‘free zones … by virtue of their status as uncertain land, the surface contours of which might change with every tide’. Perhaps it might be useful to extend this transitivity to the countryside, too, the rivers, hills and valleys of which are surely as subject to shifts in tone and character, via the process of seasonal change, as our coastal shores. In this respect, it seems fair to argue that urban environments, while not entirely absent of happiness (consider Gavin and Romeo’s magic show at the end of A Room for Romeo Brass, for example), are typically connoted as negative spaces, while once outside the parameters of the urban, spatial meanings become much more pluralized and open.

Remaining constant as the characters move through these spaces, however, is their class position. I have tried to show how class is represented not only by the events that take place within the environments depicted but is also articulated through Meadows’ use of music, sound, mise-en-scene and cinematography - especially montage. Furthermore, since none of the male characters in these films are shown to be financially employed, and only Darcy’s love-interest in TwentyFourSeven and Ladine in A Room for Romeo Brass have jobs, this class position is orchestrated as a specifically masculine problem. Monk’s criticism of the other 1990s ‘underclass’ films for being ‘expressly concerned with the impact of joblessness, poverty and social exclusion not on the community at large but on men’, thus applies equally to the films analysed here.

Unfortunately, there has not been the space here to offer the kind of in-depth analyses that these arguments and critiques deserve, and this essay has been by no means an exhaustive or definitive account of the themes and issues considered. Rather, I have tried to introduce what is intended as an initial exploration of some of the ways in which contemporary theories about relationships between class, consumption, and masculinity can be mapped onto the spatial representations in the early work of one of Britain’s most exciting contemporary filmmakers.