by Michelle McGlynn
A film about Belfast’s Godfather of Punk may not immediately seem like your cup of tea but you would be a fool to miss out on the fantastic Good Vibrations. There is a universality to this story about finding hope even in the darkest times. A truly uplifting film you will walk out feeling elated as well as inspired.
Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) always saw things in a unique way and this is not all down to the fact that he has a glass eye. Most people in Belfast viewed themselves and those around them as simply Catholic or Protestant, Terri just saw people. Living through the bitter violence in Belfast in the 1970s, Terri kept his focus on what made him happy: music. When his best friend is forced to leave the city, Terri decides to take action. He opens a record shop on Great Victoria Street, also known as “bomb alley”, and names it Good Vibrations. When a young boy comes in one day looking for a Buzzcocks record, Terri becomes introduced to an entirely new genre of music. One that he feels is the voice of Belfast. Eager to share this discovery with as many people as possible, Terri puts on punk nights in pubs and soon begins putting out records for the local bands. This all comes to a climax when he puts out Teenage Kicks for The Undertones.
Directors Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’sa, as well as the writers Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson have taken to this story with the same passion and enthusiasm as Hooley brings to his music. A homegrown production, it was important to all involved that the story of Terri Hooley not simply be told but be told properly. This is a film about Terri Hooley but his story is inextricably linked with the Troubles. The pair use montages of archive footage to remind us of the terror which surround this story without allowing it to derail the focus of the film. Leyburn and D’sa portray Terri as admirable but also acknowledge that he, like anyone else, is flawed. Terri’s impetuous nature meant that he often hurt those closest to him. His passion for the punk scene and the young lads who were creating it saw him neglect his wife, Ruth (Jodie Whittaker) and even their child.
Dormer’s stellar performance is crucial to making this film so compelling. Terri as a person is fascinating and enchanting. Dormer captures the charisma and the passion necessary to entice the audience. Dormer’s Terri is the embodiment of optimism and enthusiasm and it is completely contagious. It is a challenge put to the audience to resist getting swept up in the movement. There are numerous times when you feel like clapping or jumping up and dancing with joy along with the people on screen.
There is a scene in Good Vibrations when Terri first discovers punk at a gig that I feel perfectly sums up the wonderful talent at work in this film. As the band plays, Terri realises that his world has been irrevocably changed. He has stumbled into something new and in doing so he has become a part of something huge, even if no one else has realised it yet. The moment is almost transcendent. He is euphoric. In this scene, there isn’t a word spoken. Words aren’t necessary and Dormer conveys it perfectly. You will watch it and think, “I remember that, I’ve been there, I’ve felt that”. You will feel it all alongside him as you watch.
Good Vibrations is essentially a film about hope. It is a film that everybody can identify with. You do not need to be a fan of punk to appreciate this salute to the power of music. If you do not walk out of this film with a smile on your face, Teenage Kicks in your head and a feeling of hope in your heart well then it is quite possible that you have no soul. One of the best Irish films in years, Good Vibrations is a must-see.