Alternative Ulster – ★★★★★
The directing team of Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glen Layburn have produced a masterpiece about one of Belfast’s maddest characters, Terri Hooley, during its maddest time, the troubles. Good Vibrations is an exhilarating experience that leaves you warm on the inside, humming some of the best songs ever penned and giving you ideas about changing the world.
Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) was fed up of watching Belfast city die before his eyes. Totally divided, walking down the wrong street could wind up getting you killed. Sick of being defined as either a Catholic or Protestant and unwilling to lay his allegiances to any one side, he decided to open a record shop on Great Victoria Street – or as the locals called it “bomb alley”. His shop Good Vibrations turned out to be a mecca for aspiring northern punk bands as Hooley became their Godfather.
Being a Hank Williams fan from an early age and losing an eye set him apart from the regular crowd. Terri was the area’s local DJ and had people queuing round the road to hear him spin his records. And then the first bullet was fired and the anarchists, marxists, communists and hippies simply became Catholic or Protestant. Things turned from bad to worse, and with the army on the streets Belfast became a war zone. Coming under increasing threat from paramilitaries, he saw the light as Hank would say and opened up a record store.His light bulb moment comes when a young upstart asks if he has any records by The Clash or The Buzzcocks. Intrigued Terri goes along to a local punk gig to see all the commotion and if John Peel is on to something. Amazed by so many people crammed into what is a glorified shed, Hooley has a revelation when RUDI take to the stage unafraid of the presence of RUC officers determined to break up the party. Nearly brought to tears by the music and one of the most emotional scenes of the film he feels born again and is determined to get them a record.
The film hurtles along at breakneck speed, trying to encapsulate the turbulent times they were living through. Juggling the record store, pub and management of three bands, the stress begins to take its toll. Good Vibrations isn’t simply a Terri “love in” either as it shows him during some of his lowest times, warts and all which makes for a believable three dimensional character and refreshingly honest yarn.
The directors have done an outstanding job in capturing the essence and vibrancy of the music and handle scenes with great care and delicacy. The way in which they bring us Teenage Kicks for the first time is perfectly executed. Acting by all concerned is faultless, his long suffering wife Ruth (played superbly by Jodie Whittaker) shows the strife of being in love with someone but never being their main priority. Love/Hate’s Killian Scott puts in a good performance as the RUDI front man, hopefully showing he’ll branch out once the show comes to an end.
As the Stiff Little Fingers sang “Alter your native Ulster, Alter your native land”. Terri Hooley was doing just that, sick of the bleakness and misery, he took a stand and brought some hope into the lives of young Belfast people. His resilience and never say die attitude should be a inspiration to us all.
UK, Ireland / Directed By: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn / Written By: Colin Carberry, Glenn Patterson / Starring: Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Dylan Moran, Killian Scott, Mark Ryder, Adrian Dunbar, Andrew Simpson / 103min / Drama, Biography / Release: 29 March 2013 (Ireland, UK)