Starring: Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Liam Cunningham, Dylan Moran, Karl Johnson
Directed by: Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn
Synopsis: A chronicle of Terri Hooley’s life, a record-store owner instrumental in developing Belfast’s punk-rock scene.
A charming British movie that charts the life of engaging, enthusiastic record store owner-cum-manager Terri Hooley, who from humble beginnings in war torn Belfast ended up becoming the Godfather of Punk.
You need not know a lot about the Belfast music scene from the Seventies to enjoy watching this movie. It is equals parts funny, uplifting and charming. It is based on the biography of the infectiously upbeat Terri Hooley who, despite the well documented Northern Irish troubles, pressed on and got both catholics and protestants together to enjoy the new musical movement that was punk sweeping the country at the time.
The film starts showing Hooley (Richard Dormer) as a DJ playing to empty pubs. They used to be full but since the war started no one seems to be friends anymore. He meets his wife to be, Ruth (Jodie Whittaker), and his life is going great. It gets even better when he decides to open a record shop, Good Vibrations. His plan to sell mostly reggae music changes when he attends a gig by two local bands, The Outcasts and Rudi. Punk has started and Hooley falls in love with the DIY ethos of the movement. He signs up the bands and goes on tour. Soon, another unsigned band asks for his help, they turn out to be The Undertones, and the rest is history.
I had no previous knowledge of Hooley, or the Belfast punk scene (other than The Undertones of course) and this film was a pleasant eye opener. Dormer was great as Hooley, high on energy and rash of thought. Jodie Whittaker as his long suffering wife was also excellent. The best moment, easily, was when we hear The Undertones’ ubiquitous hit Teenage Kicks played for the first time. Pure musical magic.
Because of the troubles in the country, Hooley was literally risking his life at times, be it at his shop or touring the country in his van. It doesn’t appear that he ever gave it a second thought, preferring to live in the moment instead. The sad reality hits when he agrees to sell the rights to Teenage Kicks, and The Undertones, for just £500 so he can buy a new van. Still, I’m guessing he is the type of guy to not regret it at all.
The final scenes when he puts on a ‘Good Vibrations’ gig at the local town hall, featuring all the bands on their roster was a triumphant finale. And if you are in any doubt as to what kind of guy Terri Hooley is, the closing credits tell you as much, with it going on to say the shop was closed and reopened about five times in the intervening years. It looks as though Terri never could let the music die.