Good Vibrations


This biopic of Belfast’s punk hero Terri Hooley-the man behind the Good Vibrations record label and shop- is an excellent indictment of a time which has had little recognisable- to those present at least- representation on the screen so far. Homemade punk outfits straight from the local Oxfam and make do hair held in place by Neanderthal means- gel had yet to be invented and hairspray an expensive luxury- it captures perfectly an era which was fraught with divisiveness, generational discontent and a raw crackling energy unimaginable in the complacency of today’s disenfranchised youth who spend so much time whinging but a  little less in getting off their arses and actually doing something about it.

Seeing it in the week following Thatcher’s death its message was made even more poignant as the one eyed protagonist at the centre of the films maelstrom of events-an excellent turn by Richard Dormer-is the antithesis of the greed and selfishness which lay just around the corner and shows punk as the last great hurrah of youth culture before it became a packaged entity wrapped up in branding and marketing. There are none of the Mohican haired studded leather jacketed punks which emerged as cartoon clichés a  couple of years on from the original punk explosion and even when this ethos takes hold Hooley manages to hang onto his credentials and kudos even to the detriment of his own personal gain. It is this which makes it a film which will have you simultaneously smiling whilst welling up inside.

 Sepia tinted in its cinematography so much of the sheer brownness associated with the seventies permeates every frame and gives it that perfect period detail so many have tried and failed to capture on screen before. Straying away from the obvious punk classics – The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ which is essential to the story and Stiff Little Fingers’ ‘Alternative Ulster’ are probably the only two instantly recognisable tunes- this only enforces the films authenticity.

‘Teenage Kicks’ is the record Hooley recorded and put out on his own independent label; eventually selling it to a major for £500 and a signed photo of the Shangri La’s despite being offered a starting price of £20,000.  This would be unthinkable in today’s big business music industry where artists and songs are mere product and unit shifters. Incidentally he never got his Shangri La’s photo and you can imagine that upset him more than the fortune he turned down and walked away from.

 Set against the civil unrest and troubles in Belfast which were at their apotheosis around this time it somehow manages to be a political film which touches little on the subject of politics. Perhaps in hindsight the spectre of Thatcherism rearing its ugly head and looming over like an encroaching shadow revealed there was much worse to come just waiting around the corner.

 Clever direction by Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa who coax great performances out of a supporting cast which includes Jodie Whittaker and Dylan Moran keep the film continually buoyant and eminently watch-able. It is very much Dormer’s film though, in as much it is very much Terri Hooley’s story, and at its  conclusion of all the emotions which have been touched upon-nostalgia, happiness, epiphany and sadness among them- hope is the one which will stay with the viewer the longest.

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