“England Is Mine” depicts slice of Morrissey’s pre-Smiths life

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Now streaming on Hulu, “England Is Mine.” The biopic follows former Smiths’ front man, Steven Patrick Morrissey, as he makes his way from reluctant office worker with writerly aspirations, to a singer inspired by female singers of the 1960s. “England Is Mine” illustrates the points in Morrissey’s life that fans have heard brought to life in song over the course of The Smiths’ discography. Because “England Is Mine” focuses on such a short span of time, it seems to defy categorization. Despite criticism and certain shortcomings, there is something endearing about “England Is Mine” that will make diehard fans of The Smiths and Morrissey want to watch.

“England Is Mine”: Depictions of Morrissey

Depending on what kind of viewer is watching, one constant question might be, “Did he really wear his hair like that?” And that is just one of the criticisms leveled against the film.

Morrissey’s childhood friend, James Maker, summarizes the problems with the way Morrissey is portrayed in the film. In an interview with NME.com, Maker protests the singer being depicted as “an autistic, retiring creature with both curly hair and a natural crimp, who had to be pushed into becoming a singer by a well-meaning friend.”

Even if viewers don’t see “England Is Mine” as Maker does, that the film doesn’t show enough of the singer’s life is a legitimate concern. There are interesting shots of natural bodies of water and views of Morrissey’s natural habitat to make it clear that his lyrics about the places he spent time in are accurate.

While those who know Morrissey personally might be able to make different types of criticisms about “England Is Mine,” those only familiar with Morrissey’s public persona and his music, will appreciate insights about people and situations that inspired lyrics for numerous Smiths’ songs.

The film ends shortly after onscreen Morrissey gets his iconic haircut, and it is easier to deal with than seeing him with hair that looked more like Marc Bolan’s. At the end, Morrissey meets Johnny Marr, and the scene creates a feeling of “the rest is history.”

For fans of Morrissey and The Smiths who have read Morrissey’s self-titled autobiography, or any number of decent biographies about the band, “England Is Mine” won’t tell them anything too different from what they’ve already learned.

Still, “England Is Mine” is a fairly decent introduction to Morrissey, but the music and the books are necessary for a more complete understanding. If nothing else, the film is a welcome addition to the usual fare that streams on Hulu.

 

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Dodie Miller-Gould is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana who lives in New York City where she studies creative nonfiction at Columbia University. She has BA and MA degrees in English from Indiana University-Purdue University, Fort Wayne, and an MFA in Fiction from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her research interests include popular music and culture, 1920s jazz, and blues, confessional poetry, and the rhetoric of fiction. She has presented at numerous conferences in rhetoric and composition, and creative writing. Her creative works have appeared in Tenth Muse, Apostrophe, The Flying Island, Scavenger's Newsletter and elsewhere. She has won university-based awards for creative work and literary criticism.

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