The second film based in Ireland around the same time as Shadow Dancer is a much jollier affair and whilst it deals with the issues of the time, it’s really a film about how music can bring home and joy in times of extreme hardship and fear. Good Vibrations is the true story of how Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer), a record store owner in Belfast, became instrumental in the rising of punk in the city, and it’s a lovely story. Starting with a brief overview of his young life and how the shop became a reality, it slows down the timeline to cover his discovery of punk and The Undertones right through to the show that was put on at Ulster Hall in aid of the shop. It’s almost an Irish The Boat That Rocked with vaguely the same theme but with Good Vibrations, the power of music is much more prominent and the story more engaging.
The only flaw in Good Vibrations is the plot confusion. Because of the setting historically, it can’t ignore the issues that were consuming Belfast, but the film needs to make a decision as to how much detail to go into. There isn’t a lot of time for it so it’s largely in the background but there comes a point not far from the end when the plot loses focus and tries to tackle too much in too short a time. With Belfast a war zone and Good Vibrations the ray of light on a road known as “bomb alley” the plot was never going to be easy but with a true story to follow it should have picked an angle and stuck with it. Instead it builds the musical side up and lets it fall just before the end with a sudden injection of “reality” that doesn’t quite work in a film made so clinically. Where Shadow Dancer has a gritty style and tackled the same issues with an alarming amount of realism, Good Vibrations should be the antidote and in some ways it is, but the loss of plot focus throws the film somewhat. At least there’s the final scene to bring it back.
Speaking of which, the final scene and a few others are the reason the film holds up and is one of the betters ones of London Film Festival. The moment Terri first hears “Teenage Kicks” is a gloriously funny one. As he listens, the audience don’t get to hear what he’s hearing, they just get the look of wonder and disbelief on his face. The same look is used when he discovers punk at a show he goes to out of curiosity. It’s a wonderful scene (albeit a bit long) and the joy on his face translates to the audience leaving, with this writer at least, grins plastered across the majority’s face. The final scene is a triumph for music fans. It captures the atmosphere of a brilliant show whilst simultaneously showing a moving moment of victory for everyone in Ulster Hall. Because that’s really what the film is about. It’s not solely about Terri Hooley’s life and it’s not about the issues facing Belfast. It’s about likeminded people coming together, fighting their way through awful circumstances and ultimately having a victory over what’s happening around them.
Anyone who’s a fan of music, not just punk, will appreciate this. It captures perfectly the power music has and it’s ability to pull people together to get through the hardest situations. Not only that but the film has a compelling story and one that will stick in the minds of many long after the credits have rolled. A definite must.
Directors: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn
Writers: Glenn Patterson (screenplay), Colin Carberry (screenplay)
Stars: Jodie Whittaker, Dylan Moran, Richard Dormer
Runtime: 103 min
Country: UK, Ireland