Locally made biopic Good Vibrations tells the story of Terri Hooley and his desire to set up a record store in the heart of Belfast at the height of the Troubles in the late 70’s; in the hope that the music he loves will transcend the culture of the country at that time and bring together people regardless of religious or political beliefs. What follows are the trials and tribulations of not only the store, but the eventual record label as well as Terri himself being named the godfather of punk, championing local acts that would not normally have seen the light of day outside of Northern Ireland.
Richard Dormer brings the character of Terri Hooley to life in a way that’s refreshingly honest and free of vanity. It’s not overly romanticised and what you see on the screen seems utterly genuine. It’s a film that really captures what it means to be in love with music, and it does so through Dormer’s portrayal of Hooley; the first time he recognises what is to become his calling, hearing local band Rudi performing at the Pound bar in Belfast, he doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry with joy. It’s a performance that makes it hard not to root for Hooley, such is his never wavering optimism, almost to a fault.
The supporting cast are just as good, from Jodie Whittaker as Terri’s long suffering wife to all the young actors playing the up and coming bands. Everyone brings an authenticity to the role (around 90% of the cast and crew are all local) and the look of the film captures the feel of 70’s Northern Ireland, but in a much different light than most other portrayals of this country. In fact the whole film paints Belfast and Northern Ireland in much the same light as Hooley himself; while it never shies away from the atrocities happening at the time, it is relentlessly optimistic and feel good, and will have you grinning from ear to ear, whether it’s through a love of the music in the film itself, or the reactions of the characters listening to the music. It’s a testament to the film that this reviewer, born in 1985, was just as engaged with the film as my dad. Speaking of, I thought I’d hand over to my dad here for a second, who has more of an understanding of the time period the film deals in:
I must admit I was not going into the film with great expectations. I expected to see a film shot through rose tinted glasses, with a romanticised look at Belfast in the 70’s. My preconceptions were shattered straight away and I had a complete about face. I recognised the places in the film, I remember the time John Peel played Teenage Kicks twice in a row, I remember the Good Vibrations shop and the gig at the Ulster Hall.
Richard Dormer is awesome as Hooley, dominating every scene he’s in, which is most of the film, and is portrayed as a naive optimist, believing that the punk scene could bring communities together, and even though the music did bring people together for a time in a way that the politicians or the paramilitaries never did, the real message presented by the film is that Hooley didn’t care if you were a Catholic punk or a Protestant punk; it was the music that drove him.
While the film hits all the predictable biopic beats, from humble beginnings through hardship and troubles (as well as The Troubles) and finally to victorious triumph, but it’s performed with real vim and vigour, buoyed along by an excellent soundtrack and some truly winning performances. And perhaps I’m a little biased because the film presents Northern Ireland in such a positive light that it can’t help but make this Belfast boy smile. 24 hours after watching it and I’m still buzzin’
4 and a half stars.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
Thanks to our sponsors at the Odyssey Cinemas
Don’t forget to book your tickets for Good Vibrations at the Odyssey Cinemas here.