A feel good sleeper hit, Good Vibrations is based on the life of Belfast’s godfather of punk Terri Hooley. Set during the 1970s and 80s with civil war raging across Northern Ireland, Hooley set himself apart from the political and religious fighting by opening a record shop in the troubled capital. Maintaining neutrality and encouraging the same, he drew people from both sides together through their shared love of music before becoming an instrumental figure in the burgeoning punk scene with Good Vibrations Records, a small label that signed the likes of Rudi, The Outcasts and The Undertones.
Good Vibrations didn’t get a huge release back in March 2013 and it deserves more attention that it’s been getting since. It’s a charming, funny and engaging film which put a smile on my face and helped me look beyond Belfast’s infamous past.
Although I was aware of some of the music featured in this film, I had no knowledge of the story or people behind it. I didn’t even know The Undertones were from Northern Ireland. The movie helps to uncover some of the names and faces from an era in which other, more deadly men were making their names. It also helped to show that there is another way, an alternative to violence and hatred. Terri Hooley is shown as a man who is tired of the loyalists and the republicans and the shootings and bombings and just wants to live. He loves his music and wants others to be able to do the same without fear for their lives. The film doesn’t just show his good qualities though and doesn’t shy away from depicting him as a man who sometimes gets caught up in his musical life, brushing his family to one side. Overall though it’s reasonably fair to the man.
Hooley is played excellently by Richard Dormer who plays the character as humorous and brave. He overpowers the other actors slightly though and there isn’t much room for anyone else. The hair and makeup is excellent and the period sets and costumes look spot on when spliced with achieve footage from ‘the troubles’. There are occasional fantasty moments which also fit well. The soundtrack is fantastic and the actors and musicians playing the bands look and sound accurate. I’ve never been a huge punk or new wave fan but I enjoyed the music and performances and got tingles when Teenage Kicks is finally played. The film teases its audience with the song before delighting them with it in the manner that it first came to national attention.
Good Vibrations is a film with a lot of heart. It’s well made, poignant and funny and recommended to anyone with an interest in politics or music. It isn’t too heavy on either but will satisfy fans of both.
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