Inspiring biopic of Belfast punk record label owner Terri Hooley
In 1970s Belfast, as sectarian conflict escalated into terrorism and murder, Terri Hooley decided to open a record shop on the battle-scarred high street. 'One love' was his declaration, and Good Vibrations was the name of the store. The store birthed a record label, creating a platform for a wealth of up-and-coming Irish punks, the most famous being Feargal Sharkey and The Undertones. Directors Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn retell these events as a biopic of Hooley, and thanks to a great lead performance from Richard Dormer (Game of Thrones) it’s inspiring stuff, showing the community-building power of music in an environment of fear and ever-present violence.
The film follows a formulaic ‘ascent/decline/final-triumphant-ascent’ biopic structure, and becomes less compelling in the sections when the narrative takes dramatically-necessary downturns, but two things cause Good Vibrations to rise above its flaws. The first is Dormer, whose brilliant performance as Hooley dominates the film; the character as written could seem too whimsical to be believed, but Dormer conveys an irrepressible spirit that is nonetheless grounded in reality. It’s a fully-realised performance where every element feels authentic, overflowing with humour and passionate conviction that is infectious and life-affirming. The second is the way that the directors draw on religious imagery to give weight to the moments of musical breakthrough. Hooley has a radical ‘conversion’ experience in a mosh pit, transported into an ecstatic state like some medieval visionary, while the moment that 'Teenage Kicks' first gets played on the radio sees Hooley bathed in light as if divinely ordained. The filmmakers subtly but effectively pose the suggestion that, in the midst of religious hatred, God was not to be found amongst the warring faith communities, but in the peace-loving endeavours of underground punks.
Limited release from Fri 29 Mar.