Film Title: Good Vibrations
Director: Lisa Barros D'Sa, Glenn Leyburn
Starring: Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker
Running Time: 97 min
H H H H
Teenage kicks really are hard to beat. Good Vibrations good-naturedly bounces into cinemas having overcome the same seemingly insurmountable difficulties as the record imprint that lends the film its name. The backdrop is the grimmest period (1970s to 1980s) in what was the grimmest city (Belfast) in the western world. The hero of the hour is Terri Hooley ( Game of Thrones ’s Richard Dormer, excellent), a madcap visionary with a madcap notion to open a record store in a derelict building on Great Victoria Street; an address, he reminds us, located within “the most bombed half-mile in Europe”.
This unlikely business venture soon attracts local renegades from the city’s blossoming punk scene. Terri is smitten with the new aesthetic. He hatches a second madcap scheme. After all, if kids across the UK enjoy pogo-ing along to angry, disaffected, minimal chords just wait until they get an earful of Northern Irish noise. A new record label and raucous shenanigans ensue.
These shores have produced a handful of must-see titles in recent years. None of them – until now – might have been described as happy-go-lucky and feelgood. And none of them – until now – have anything like the punch-the-air, I’ve-got-something-in-my-eye cheeriness of Good Vibrations.
Working from a deftly comic script by Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson, sophomore directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn have forged a movie in the same anarchic spirit as the music that inspired the project. Where the directors’ spirited 2009 effort, Cherrybomb, lacked focus, Good Vibrations trains their collective energies and youthful exuberance; the tiniest one-shot tableaux is infused with wit and vigour; historical moments – notably The Undertones’ first recording session – are given a high-spirited, mythological gloss.
Historians specialising in Ulster punk might remind us that the Good Vibrations saga does not provide a tidy conclusion. But it did have great tunes and enough irrepressible ambition to have carried Terri Hooley’s dream into the post-internet age.
Quite apart from the film’s commendably DIY ethos, on its own kinetic terms Good Vibrations is note perfect. And as a reminder of all the songs that should have and could have been monster hits it’s a (sorry, wrong genre) stone groove.
Never mind the mouthpieces: this one goes out to all the folks who know the true meaning of ‘no surrender’. Go early. Go often. Bring the family.