During the final scene of Shane Meadows' This Is England, I heard someone in the audience let out a violent, wrenching sob. The scene itself is actually quite lovely -- a young boy is standing in a field of green sea grass next to a rowboat, long-ago stranded by the tide; he's holding the St. George's Cross, the flag of England -- but it's infused with an almost inconceivable suffering and pain. Like most of Meadows' impressively accomplished film, the closing combines lush beauty -- the colors and compositions are often breathtaking -- with an incredible emotional punch, breaking our hearts with the inevitable tragedy of what we're seeing on screen.

Originally based on his own childhood, Meadows' screenplay underwent a metamorphosis after he met Thomas Turgoose, his young star. Combining his own childhood experiences with what Turgoose was going through nearly a quarter-century later, he revised his script and ended up with a heartfelt, tragic story of a boy desperate to belong. Set in the England of 1983, the movie is centered on Shaun, a 12-year-old boy whose father was recently killed in the Falkland Islands War. His pain over the loss of his dad is distancing him from his well-intentioned mother, and he doesn't fit in with the kids at school, all of whom are divided into distinct camps of fashion and ideology. Clad in bell-bottomed corduroys and a knitted sweater decorated with what look like squirrels, Shaun sticks out like a sore thumb. His inner agony gives him a hair trigger, and his explosive reactions immediately make him a target for the bullies at school -- they know they'll get a response, so they can hardly wait to wind him up.