g o o d  v i b r a t i o n s

UK Release Date 29th March 2013
Director Lisa Barros D'Sa, Glenn Leyburn
Starring Richard Dormer
Runtime 103 Minutes
Certificate 15
Reviewer Si
Reviewed 7th March 2013

It says something about Good Vibrations that Dylan Moran is third billed and in the film for at most, 10 minutes. This isn't a star vehicle for anyone. It’s a star vehicle for the Belfast Punk Scene. And it’s an incredibly effective one at that.

The film tells the largely true story of possibly Northern Ireland’s most useless business man, Terri Hooley. Honestly, I think only John Delorean has a worse record. You’ll find out why it’s Terri with an ‘i’ in the first few minutes. A kind of Walther Mitty type whose world is turned around when civil war kicks off in Ireland in the 1960’s. At a time when sectarian hatred was just getting its feet under the table, Hooley accidentally visits a punk rock gig and decides to set up a record shop on Winetavern Street in Belfast. His long suffering bank manager’s surprise at anyone wanting to actually open anything in the area speaks to the horrific state of affairs at the time.

Along the way, Hooley marries a beautiful girl, founds a record label, discovers John Peel’s favourite song of all time, signs The Undertones, sells Teenage Kicks for the price of a new van, goes broke, sells out a 2,000 audience gig that makes a loss, and descends into alcoholism. All whilst Belfast burns in the background.

Good Vibrations is a wonderful piece of film making. It is at times, brutal, uplifting, heart-wrenching and joyous. It manages to capture the atmosphere of a time and place that was in a state of flux that few will have experienced in their lives. Hooley’s epiphany whilst watching Rudi and The Outcasts is truly a sight to behold. The punk music blasting in the background, we get a bouncing shot of Richard Dormer (Hooley)’s face as he gets caught in the music to the point of tears. You really get the sense of a community (“when people refer to ‘community’”, Hooley states at one point, “what they really mean is ‘sides’”) that desperately needs something to help them come together and break out of the cycle of violence that is going on around them in the name of religion.

Hooley’s position in the said community is an isolated one and that’s clearly what drew him towards the punk scene. When he first meets his future wife, he tells her about all the friends he used to have before they simply became “catholic friends and protestant friends”. Hooley doesn't consider himself to be either so when his last religiously neutral friend is scared off to London by the terrorists, he finds himself completely isolated by both communities. Punk is the way to unite the warring sides and he sets off to give Punk to Belfast and beyond into the countryside.

Hooley is an intriguing character and certainly one worthy of the film. His Communist father derides him as a capitalist but if he is a capitalist, he’s a pretty useless one. Not at any point does he show any spirit of self-preservation. Whether it be mortgaging his family’s house to fund his record shop or standing up to the RUC when they pick on under-age drinking rather than dealing with the “civil war going on outside”. And Dormer is superb in the role. We never feel sorry for Hooley, nor do we ever feel the need to patronise his motivations. He’s not a classic music industry mess, there are no affairs or dodgy dealings, he’s merely a guy doing what he feels is right in generally horrid circumstances. And if that means putting 2,000 people on your guest list, well, in you come.

The film never shies away from those circumstances either, and it doesn’t pick a side in the conflict. The menace of living life in a community split by hatred is brought to life effectively and it counter-balances the dream-like world that Hooley inhabits. Hooley clearly had his flaws, witness the longest guest list in history and the number of times his shop has been closed. Only to open again the following year. But as a hero for anyone who just wants to be left to do their thing, free of hypocritical, vicious and ultimately futile persecution, he takes some beating. And unfortunately, according to Wikipedia, he still takes a beating for his stance. Which is a horrible reminder that we've come a long way but nowhere far enough. While we’re travelling though, we’d be much better off for having seen this film. Full of guts, heart and of course, Teenage Kicks.

Check out the Good Vibrations trailer here. 

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