A messy, nostalgic coming-of-ager set around the legendary Stone Roses gig
Arriving just before Shane Meadows’ Made of Stone documentary comes another disappointing tribute to the era of ‘Madchester’ and the music of The Stone Roses. Directed by Mat Whitecross, who already brought us the Ian Dury biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Spike Island harks back to the band’s famed 1990 gig when 27,000 kids descended on Widnes for what has since become regarded as a seminal moment in music history.
Whitecross and his writer Chris Coghill try to capture that lightening in a bottle through the eyes of five teenage lads – all mad-for-it Roses fans who also have their own band Shadow Caster, led by 16 year-old singer Gary ‘Tits’ Titchfield (Elliott Tittensor). Encouraged by classmate Sally (Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke) to get their demo tape to Ian Brown and co, it provides an even greater reason for the boys to find a way into the gig (for which they currently lack tickets).
Weaving tracks from the Roses’ debut album into the mix, Whitecross does his best to recreate this Second Summer of Love – though the drama only comes in fits and spurts. There’s a love-triangle subplot with Sally, Tits and their friend Dodge (Nico Mirallegro). And there are problems at home for Tits, whose father (Steve Evets) is in hospital, leaving his mother (Lesley Manville) barely able to cope.
Emotionally lacking any real punch, the film ultimately feels as messy as one of those Jackson Pollock-inspired paintings by the Roses’ guitarist John Squire (which the characters pay tribute to early on, in a school gym prank). Technically it outshines its low-budget – note one lovely shot of the crowd reflected in a pair of sunglasses. But it’s hard to see who the film is aimed at, teenagers or nostalgic forty-somethings? There doesn’t seem enough for either.
Limited release from Fri 21 Jun.