Since this weekend has absolutely zero releases that I consider relevant, with “Iron Man 3” already out since last week and “Star Trek Into Darkness” hitting the theaters next weekend, I decided to focus my weekend movie-going on films that I wanted to see before, but failed due to something seemingly more interesting being released at the same time. And what would be more interesting than to go and see a piece of local cinema?
Now, films that are in any way showing Northern Ireland almost invariably pick up the notorious political subject of The Troubles and movies that do not bring the conflict into the light are hard to come by. Sure, I reckon you’d find some films that completely disregard it, however it would seem almost impossible given the impact the civil war had on this corner of the Earth. And here it is…
I would be lying if I claimed that “Good Vibrations” is free from any mention of The Troubles. After all, it is a story of Terri Hooley – a brave and vivacious young music lover, who believed that people of Belfast deserved more than the grim war zone. So, in the interest of being exact, “Good Vibrations” is not a film that uses The Troubles to tell a story, but a film that tells a story that happened in spite of it. In it, we meet Terri, a vibrant young man, whose life underwent a dramatic change in the 70’s when Belfast was miles away from being a happy place. Having spent the previous decade going to concerts and being a popular DJ playing his beloved prog-rock to the countless masses, Hooley somehow woke up years later surrounded by silence of the empty clubs and the sounds of distant gunfights. I guess it might have happened to many people in that time, when the country got brutally divided and everyone was somehow forced to take side in a conflict – just by virtue of one’s religious affiliation or political views. There were only Catholics and Protestants and Terri Hooley didn’t feel like he wanted to join any club.
But, he believed in people. Hooley apparently thought that somewhere in this war-torn country there were people like him – people who didn’t care about politics, or religion, or any of that bulls**t that made the news every day – people who shared his passion for music. So, in order to give those people a chance to get out of hiding and have a place where they could feel welcome, and in spite of the whole conflict, Terri Hooley opened a record shop in the center of Belfast and called it ‘Good Vibrations’. Not long after he had started his business, Terri became aware of where the love for music had been hiding, because underneath the layer of violence that made the bulk of everyday life in Belfast, he found a thriving, vibrant and pristine punk scene that had gathered the Northern Irish youth. Following his little discovery, Terri Hooley turned his record-selling business into an underground label focused on promoting the young local talents and thus the ball started rolling. By the 80’s Terri Hooley’s work was well known both in the UK and in the world and everybody knew that Belfast music scene was a force to be reckoned with.
Maybe the film emphasized Hooley’s role in establishing the NI punk scene too much, or maybe it didn’t – I’m in no position to judge The real point of this film is that even in times of peril, loss, war, violence, prejudice, fear and intimidation, people kept looking for something that would unite them in something positive. And that thing was punk, of all the things. The ideas of disregarding the current state of things, rebellion against ‘the man’ and disdain towards the grim reality of life all brought masses together and this is where “Good Vibrations” shines the most. Not the acting, not the direction, not the production value, nor the technical things, but the uplifting atmosphere caught in imagery is this film’s strongest card. Not that I don’t think all the other qualities of this film are brilliant, because they are. In fact, I couldn’t find a single thing I disliked about “Good Vibrations”. Richard Dormer’s performance was just magnificent; light, natural, hilarious and adorable. Just because his portrayal was so engaging, I kept smiling the whole time and by the end of the film (even though not everything was ‘sunshine, rainbows and unicorns’ in Hooley’s life) I couldn’t help but feel happy. The entire ensemble cast was really good, and the fact my favorite stand-up comedian Dylan Moran had a small part in it I can only consider as the icing on the cake.
The lines were really good, the story was well paced, and the entirety of film was funny, entertaining, engaging and unforgettable. In addition, the film was shot in a way that added some color to the story and cleverly situated it within the political mayhem of the 70’s, but retained a healthy distance. It’s clearly visible, how difficult these times must have been, but in the end it only serves to bring the feel-good atmosphere of “Good Vibrations” to a whole new level. As a whole, the combination of all these factors makes “Good Vibrations” a fantastic film to watch. Beyond doubt, the directorial duo of Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn should be proud of themselves. In reality, they probably are with all the awards “Good Vibrations” has scored…
So, if you’re into music, and even if not… Go and see it. Or rent it sometime in the future if you have the chance. Any way, you will not waste your time, but on the contrary, you might learn something new about this little complicated country. On top of everything, “Good Vibrations” was a good bit of fun and I’m sure as hell, I’m going to re-watch it at some point in time.