What's On

Good Vibrations

The true story of an unsung hero of Northern Irish Rock n' Roll.
Good Vibrations

Richard Dormer as Terri Hooley. 

With his tongue firmly in his cheek, Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer, TV’s Game of Thrones) not only opened a record store in Belfast’s Bomb Alley, but named it for the tremors that too-often shook the district; his Good Vibrations were not always of excitation-inducing kind. As the Troubles raged around him, Hooley turned his fondness for rock and punk into a shop and a label, riding on the infectiousness of his talent, The Undertones, and their anthemic single, Teenage Kicks. Alas, his fortunes, driven by passion but lacking in business savvy, were often as volatile as the political struggles waged in the streets outside.

So says directors Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn (Cherrybomb) and writers Glenn Patterson and Colin Carberry in their telling of the tale, their film taking its title from Hooley’s labour of love. The moniker proves apt in other ways, too, the feature buzzing with enthusiasm and energy that trickles through every frame to the watching audience. Appropriating the amiability of its inspiration and protagonist in almost fabled fashion, Good Vibrations exudes warmth and welcomes eccentricity as it charts the many beats, bangs and bounces that comprise the true story.

Central to the film’s air of charming contagion is Dormer, all joyously wild-eyed, wily and with a winning grin that never fails to elicit its own appreciative smiles in return. Steeped in the unwavering sense of certainty of music conquering all that radiates from his character, Dormer brings charisma as well as conviction – but of the raw, rough-around-the-edges type that also perfects Hooley’s blend of sarcasm and sweetness. Though supported by a capable cast that includes Liam Cunningham (Safe House), Jodie Whittaker (One Day) and comedian Dylan Moran (A Film with Me in It), his leading efforts are never less than likeable.

The constant congeniality helps gloss over the film’s many conveniences – reliance upon every music movie cliché chief among them. Hopping between seedy bars, speeding along in shabby vans, and consuming copious amounts of alcohol are all obvious elements of the narrative; so too, the incursion of disapproving parents, discarded wives and devious industry executives. The components of fellow upbeat biopic 24 Hour Party People are recalled in the rise and rocky road of one influential figure, but in this case with more shambles and less structure. Despite the ever-present context of conflict, hope reigns supreme; that Good Vibrations as a feel-good film cannot be questioned.

As it skips through times good and bad, shows the surface of troubles, and soars through the successes, hard-earned as they were, the film easily resembles the many catchy, spiky songs peppered throughout its 103 minutes – a chirpy, cheerful ode to rebellion, perhaps. That’s the tune Good Vibration sings, and does so with fun and feeling, in a fitting tribute to a man, his enamour of music, and their combination in local myth.

Rating: 3 out of 5 


Good Vibrations

Director: Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn

UK, 2012, 103 mins


British Film Festival

November 19 – December 8


Sarah Ward

Thursday 28 November, 2013

About the author

Sarah Ward is a freelance film critic, arts and culture writer, and film festival organiser. She is the Australia-based critic for Screen International, a film reviewer and writer for ArtsHub, the weekend editor and a senior writer for Concrete Playground, a writer for the Goethe-Institut Australien’s Kino in Oz, and a contributor to SBS, SBS Movies and Flicks Australia. Her work has been published by the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Junkee, FilmInk, Birth.Movies.Death, Lumina, Senses of Cinema, Broadsheet, Televised Revolution, Metro Magazine, Screen Education and the World Film Locations book series. She is also the editor of Trespass Magazine, a film and TV critic for ABC radio Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast, and has worked with the Brisbane International Film Festival, Queensland Film Festival, Sydney Underground Film Festival and Melbourne International Film Festival. Follow her on Twitter: @swardplay