Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Meadows, Shane (1973-)

Director, Producer, Actor

Main image of Meadows, Shane (1973-)

Shane Meadows was born on 26 December 1972 in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, and grew up in Nottingham. That city's estates and suburbs have provided the locations and settings for all his work to date. While on the dole, Meadows completed some twenty-five short films shot on a borrowed video camcorder. One of these, Where's the Money Ronnie! (1995), won a short film competition sponsored by Channel One and the National Film Theatre.

With funding from the BFI he was then able to complete Smalltime (1996), an hour-long comedy drama about inept petty criminals, with himself as the bewigged, boorish 'Jumbo'. These two apprentice works, which were transferred to 35mm for a limited theatrical release, clearly revealed his flair for larger-than-life characters in (mostly) ordinary situations and his ability to extract accomplished, semi-improvised performances from talented non-professionals.

Meadows' first full-length professional feature, TwentyFourSeven (1997), stars Bob Hoskins in a tragi-comic tale of the rise and fall of a boxing club for unemployed and delinquent youths. Beautifully lit in black-and-white by Ashley Rowe and favouring medium-distance long takes rather than the tight close-ups and quick cuts preferred by most directors of his generation, it is as much poetic as naturalistic, suggesting that for Meadows social realism is an artistic means rather than a political end.

TwentyFourSeven was co-written, like its successors, with Paul Fraser, Meadows' close friend since childhood. A Room for Romeo Brass (UK/Canada, 1999) is partly based on their own experiences and relationship, and follows the involvement of two young boys with Morell, an eccentric loner. Initially a figure of fun, he is gradually revealed as a dangerous sociopath. With its audacious shifts of tone and the extraordinary central performance of Paddy Considine (another friend, making an astonishing acting debut), Romeo Brass is Meadows' richest, most impressive work to date.

Once Upon a Time in the Midlands (UK/Germany, 2002) is a disappointingly thin and flaccid follow-up, an attempt at a contemporary English 'Western' which fails to come off as anything other than a quirky conceit. Its cast of stars (Rhys Ifans, Robert Carlyle, Kathy Burke, Ricky Tomlinson), none of whom is readily associated with the Midlands, is the first sign that Meadows might be willing to compromise his regional loyalties in order to reach the mainstream, though he has yet to achieve a major popular success.

Unlike the work of Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, the film-makers with whom he is most often compared, Meadows' observations of lower-class losers and misfits are made from the perspective of a native insider rather than a sympathetic visitor. Their occasional rawness and lack of polish are manifested in a rather desultory approach to narrative - situations tend to peter out or get diverted into musical montages rather than be fully developed and resolved - but also in an invigorating playfulness which is rarely permitted to coarsen into parody or caricature. Above all, Meadows always appears to like his characters, even the grotesques like Jumbo and Morell.

Geoffrey Macnab, 'The Natural', Sight and Sound, March 1998, pp. 14-16

Sheldon Hall, Reference Guide to British and Irish Film Directors

More information


From the BFI's filmographic database

Related media

Selected credits

Thumbnail image of Smalltime (1996)Smalltime (1996)

Nottingham-set working-class comedy; Shane Meadows' feature debut

Thumbnail image of TwentyFourSeven (1997)TwentyFourSeven (1997)

Drama with Bob Hoskins trying to give Midlands teenagers self-respect

Thumbnail image of Where's the Money Ronnie! (1996)Where's the Money Ronnie! (1996)

Shane Meadows short offering four different views of a robbery

Related collections

Related people and organisations