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London Film Festival 2012: Good Vibrations - Review

Good Vibrations

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

EVERYONE knows that celebrated late DJ John Peel gave The Undertones their big break. Perhaps fewer know that it was a man called Terri Hooley who discovered them and through whose perseverance they ended up on Peel’s desk.

Good Vibrations tells Hooley’s story, chronicling his unlikely rise to Ulster’s Godfather of Punk from the darkest days of The Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Co-directed by Lisa Barros and Glenn Leyburn, the film offers a darkly comic insight into this living legend – a man who never allowed a good opportunity to get in the way of the often grim reality of his real-life situation.

For while Hooley was spurred by his obsessive passion for music, it often came at the expense of other parts of his life and he repeatedly tested the loyalty of friends and family (including his wife, played by Jodie Whittaker) as well as spurning opportunities to make money.

Indeed, The Undertones were his only real commercial success even though his life was marked by personal, non-profit musical triumphs, including a legendary sold out night at Belfast’s Ulster Hall that united many of his greatest discoveries.

In its favour, Good Vibrations doesn’t seek to offer a rose-tinted view of Hooley and in leading man Richard Dormer boasts someone who is prepared to expose his folly as much as his bravery. It makes him difficult to warm to at times but perhaps all the more memorable.

The film’s depiction of The Troubles, meanwhile, doesn’t succumb to cliche or easy political point-making. Rather, it’s very much a volatile backdrop, against which Hooley’s achievements seem all the more pronounced.

Hence, Good Vibrations succeeds both in capturing the essence of the man and the time, while existing to celebrate the music that Hooley was so inspired by. It’s a solid rock ‘n’ roll movie that shines a light into a little known but really quite amazing life. What’s more, it leaves you with a genuinely feel-good vibe.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 103mins
UK Release Date: January 2013
London Film Festival screenings: Friday, October 19 (Odeon West End 1); Saturday, October 20. (Vue5); Sunday, October 21 (Ritzy)