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Ireland 2012
Directed by
Lisa Barros D'Sa / Glenn Leyburn
103 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Good Vibrations

Synopsis: A dramatization of the life of Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer),the godfather of Belfast's punk rock scene in the 1970s when Ireland was being torn apart by The Troubles.

Good Vibrations is true to its title, but it’s far from being about sand, surf and the lotus life. Rather it’s about the birth of punk rock in Belfast amidst the bloody battles between the Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland in the 1970s. The good vibrations come from Terri Hooley, an unlikely hero and lifelong music buff who mortgaged his home to set up a record shop called Good Vibrations in the middle of Belfast at a time when most retailers were closing down because of the random violence. That act might never had become history had not Hooley shortly thereafter discovered punk rock. Electrified by what he heard, from that point on, Terri was on a mission from God.

Hooley is a true Irish nutter. The son of a dyed-in-the-wool Marxist and the possessor of only one eye after a childhood bow and arrow accident, Hooley acquired something of his Dad’s idealism but infused with an infectiously unbridled tenacity that blinded him to the realities of life.  This quality brings him good fortune, like his wife, Ruth (Jodie Whitaker) and his face on the cover, if not of the Rolling Stone, then, at least, some German music magazine. It also makes him a catastrophe as a businessman, band manager and husband.

In the leads both Dormer and Whitaker are excellent and you’ll really feel as if you know these people: Terri with his maddening but endearing impracticality, Ruth with her genuine love for him but also with a slowly waning forbearance of his irresponsibility.

The use of music is excellent. Many of the big pop and punk songs of the time, from The Small Faces to the Sex Pistols are on the soundtrack, whilst the narrative itself introduces us to the bands who Hooley signed up, notably The Undertones who gave us one-time pop star Feargal Sharkey and a punk classic, "Teenage Kicks", the one and only hit that Hooley’s label had.

Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn's film is a treat. It has a rough-and-ready aesthetic and the brogue can at times can be hard to decipher but that’s all admirably true to its material, just the areas that The Commitments Alan Parker's 1991 film about a late 80s Dublin soul band, wimped out on. Punk was the last gasp of rock n’roll as society’s salvation. Good Vibrations captures its successes and failures with spirit.




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