Movie Review – Good Vibrations (2012)

Good Vibrations, 2012

Directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glen Leyburn.
Starring Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Mark Ryder, Dylan Moran, Adrian Dunbar and Niall Wright.

Good Vibrations movie poster


A chronicle of the life of Terri Hooley, a record-store owner instrumental in developing Belfast’s punk-rock scene.

Good Vibrations

The late 70s punk scene of the United Kingdom (or, as we shall see the not so ‘United’ Kingdom) was a time of immense change in all sort of ways – fashion, politics, and core belief systems were all subject to sustained alteration. Northern Ireland saw more of this than anywhere else in the Isles. The deep set religious troubles had essentially turned much of the city into a warzone, with former friends and colleagues turning on each other as the days and weeks went by. To add to this despair, unemployment levels and general despondency were operating at a suffocating level in the mean streets of Belfast. If ever there was a place that needed a party, it was here.

Into this climate Terri Hooley, the record store owner whose memoirs and remembrances this wonderful film is based on, was something of a lifesaver. His record shop effectively brought punk to Belfast and allowed some escapism from the bloody reality of the city’s strife. Local punks finally felt that their shouts and riffs could be heard, releasing explosive burst of rage and frustration.

And then there was Teenage Kicks. Hooley produced and released the The Undertones immortal debut 7in (and the only record John Peel ever played twice in a row) and let them leave his management for the princely sum of £50. Hooley, although a man with an eye for business possibilities, never quite left his hippyish Marxist philosophies behind. For him, it really is all about the music, maaaan…

Richard Dormer (as Hooley) captures this spirit amazingly well, with a glass always half-full twinkle in his eye and plenty of very funny lines. Stepping into the youth filled punk scene as a thirty something with folky hair and beard, Hooley must have seemed somewhat out of place but sheer enthusiasm meant that he quickly became accepted as a true punk.

As befitting so musically driven a film, there is a terrific soundtrack of dub, reggae and punk – the sounds of the times, which still stand up amazingly well today.

Excellent support to Dormer comes from Jodie Whittaker as his somewhat more serious and realistic wife Ruth. Then there are the groups of youngsters playing the punks who give quality showings. The famous characters (John Peel, The Undertones front man Feargal Sharkey) are captured more than adequately and the comedian Dylan Moran also makes a typically downbeat cameo as a barman.

Probably the best British music film since 24 Hour Party People, Good Vibrations comes strongly recommended. If you’re into punk music in any sense you’ll love it and even if you’re not you’ll probably still love it… it’s that good.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.

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