The 1980s have been mediated constantly since their end, with British cinema in
particular engaging with the decade’s political, social, and cultural landscape
through a masculine perspective. Seventeen British films set in the 1980s were
produced from 2005 to 2010, with many presenting a personal response to the
boyhood of their screenwriters during the Thatcher decade. This article considers
the determinants of this phenomenon, the meaning for contemporary men of
1980s cultural nostalgia, and the role of the father in these films. Two films in
particular, Son of Rambow and This is England, center boyhood and patriarchal
absence within their personal narratives. Although these films indicate that the
1980s are a difficult period for the male characters in these narratives, I argue that
for a number of their screenwriters and directors, revisiting their boyhood through
these cultural texts indicates a nostalgic reluctance to move on from the 1980s.
How this contradiction defines contemporary masculinity in Britain will be a key
consideration in this article.