Elaine Constantine's directorial debut features Steve Coogan and takes a look at the titular youth scene
For the uninitiated, northern soul was a youth movement that gripped the North of England during the 60s and 70s, fuelled by high octane funk and soul records from the States. DJs were on a permanent quest for ever more elusive tracks, unearthing gems on record buying trips to the US. The sound packed out clubs, in particular The Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca, as the crowd were whipped into a frenzy of high kicks, spins and speed.
Northern Soul takes us back to Lancashire in 1974. John Clark (Elliot James Langridge) feels trapped in the grim town of Burnsworth until he meets Matt (Josh Whitehouse) and discovers the power of northern soul on a trip to his local youth club. John is instantly hooked and a new world of friendship, love and music opens up as they deal with low wages, shitty jobs and a growing amphetamine habit. Their relationship is severely tested when Matt's big mouth and reckless behaviour becomes a liability.
Photographer Elaine Constantine's debut feature tends toward the simplistic and is a rather too typical cinematic portrayal of Northern strife. The drug addiction subplot feels tacked on and just fizzles away, while John's romance with Angela (Antonia Thomas) is never fully developed. Familiar faces like Steve Coogan, John Thomson and Ricky Tomlinson pop up for welcome cameos but it's left to the young cast to carry the film.
The attention to period detail effectively captures a time in the North when the bright lights of Wigan felt like the ultimate in glamour. Even if the plot is slight, Northern Soul scores big with its soundtrack. Constantine knows and loves the scene and tracks by the likes of Frankie Valli, The Salvadors, Edwin Starr, The Velvettes and Marvin Gaye ensure the all-important dancefloor scenes hum with energy.
Selected release from Fri 17 Oct; DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD from Mon 20 Oct.