Good Vibrations

Movie Information

In Brief: Good Vibrations is one of those British productions that simply never got picked up for U.S. distribution, and that's a shame, because this is a truly remarkable little film. Also, it's remarkable in a few ways — one of which is unexpected. It tells the story of music-obsessed Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer, '71), a Belfast boy who opens a record store (called Good Vibrations) at the height of The Troubles and goes on to be a quirky record producer and the driving force of the Belfast punk-rock scene — all for the love of music. Yes, you're shaking your heads in wonder that there even was a Belfast punk-rock scene and possibly thinking, "I don't like punk rock." Well, there was one, and it really doesn't matter if you like punk rock or not (and you do get some Small Faces and Bowie, too), since the film is about more than that. Think of it as something similar in tone to 2014's Pride — minus the gay angle and the coal miners and without the big-name cast. It has a similar vibe and structure — and, yes, that means it's also a feel-good film with a wistful, sad side. Perhaps the most fascinating thing is that it affords a unique look at Northern Ireland as something more than just The Troubles. To help contextualize the film, film critic Gareth Higgins (who is from Belfast) will be on hand to introduce the film and talk about it afterwards. Not to be missed.
Genre: Fact-Based Drama Comedy with Music
Director: Lisa Barros D'Sa, Glenn Leyburn
Starring: Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Kerr Logan, Dylan Moran, Liam Cunningham
Rated: NR



Chances are you’ve never heard of this film, nor its directors, nor its cast, nor its subject. Two months ago I didn’t know it existed, but my friend, fellow-critic and film historian Gareth Higgins handed me a copy and changed all that. Gareth knew I’d spent about a week in Belfast back in 1990 and that I liked the city and thought of it in terms of something other than some kind of war zone. (The Troubles were still an issue in 1990.) As a result, he was certain that a movie about Belfast that didn’t focus on its more notorious aspect would interest me — and he was right.




Now, this is not to say that Good Vibrations pretends the Troubles weren’t there. That would be absurd. The film takes place against the background of them — sometimes devastatingly — and there are reminders of them everywhere. But — and this is key — it doesn’t make it seem that that’s all there was or that it was the end-all, be-all of the residents’ lives. This is brought home forcefully in one scene when Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) is asked if his tour van has both Protestants and Catholics inside, and he replies, “It never occurred to me to ask.” For him, it’s all about the music. (Come to think of it, it’s never occurred me to ask Gareth.)


good vibrations


This is a joyous movie. It throbs with the music of its soundtrack and the wayward optimism of our one-eyed hero, Terri Hooley. (His eye was shot out with an arrow — not because of the Troubles, but because his father was a communist politician.) It’s done in a style that often looks back on the Swinging London of the British Invasion that was defined by Richard Lester in the 1960s — only this is Rocking Belfast in the ’70s. It’s rougher, harsher, but just as full of life. And echoes of Lester aside, Good Vibrations has an identity — and a complexity — all its own. There are so many wonderful moments in this film. You can go all the way to the Kodachrome-colored opening when young Terri discovers music. You can move forward to his wild plans to open a record store — and on to his discovering punk rock, or that inexpressibly beautiful moment when he hears (but we don’t) the Undertones’ recording of  “Teenage Kicks,” a song legendary British radio personality and tireless promoter of rock John Peel calls “the best two minutes and 28 seconds of my life.” Put in the simplest possible terms — you need this movie in your life.

The Asheville Film Society will screen Good Vibrations Tuesday, Nov. 10, at 8 p.m. in Theater Six at The Carolina Asheville, hosted by Xpress movie critic Ken Hanke with a special introduction and post-screening discussion by Belfast native and film critic Gareth Higgins.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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