Director: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn
Cast: Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker
Watch online: iTunes
Buy on DVD from Amazon
Who is Richard Dormer? We have no idea. But he’s excellent as Terri Hooley in this feel-good movie about Northern Ireland’s punk scene. Who is Terri Hooley? The music industry had no idea, but he was excellent at running a music shop.
Well, we say excellent. He barely ran it, had no money and ignorde his wife (Jodie Whittaker) in order to do it. But somehow, in between his bearded shambles and visibly passionate love of music, he found the time to found the Belfast punk rock movement, launching a record label and giving the world the legendary track Teenage Kicks.
All in all, it’s quite amazing.
How does that true story translate into film? Ploddingly, with all the box-ticking and formulaic plotting of a scripted-by-numbers biopic.
But while the screenplay may rise and fall and rise again like a remote-controlled loaf of bread, directors Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn turn what could have been a boringly familiar flick into something extremely charming.
The secret, perhaps, is their attention to detail. From the half-finished pints of beer to the faded wallpaper, dingy Belfast feels wonderfully real, while the supporting cast (particularly Jodie Whittaker and Dylan Moran) make sure the background stays interesting. Combined, that sense of location, torn apart by conflict, gives the music – when it arrives – a thrilling sense of urgency.
And boy, does it make it entrance. Vinyl scratches, guitar picks, cymbal clashes. Good Vibrations rings with the energy retro rock. But while the sound is brilliantly, foot-stompingly catchy, the soundtrack is best enjoyed visibly – from the look it brings to Terri’s face.
D’Sa and Leyburn capture the childlike glee it gives the immature music shop owner, a man so wrapped up in bass riffs that he doesn’t care whether the people playing the instruments are Protestants or Catholics. That naive belief is infectious, making it hard to dislike even the plot’s more contrived emotional beats.
Who is Richard Dormer? We have no idea. But somehow, in between his bearded shambles and visibly passionate love of music, his natural enthusiasm turns this conventional story into something rather extraordinary.