As our protagonist Terri Hooley tells the audience at the start of this film, he used to have many of types of friends – Socialists, Marxists and Communists. But when Northern Ireland became immersed in The Troubles of the 1970s Terri’s friends, like the rest of the region, dwindled into two groups – Protestants and Catholics.
As the rest of the country descends into violence around him, Terri chooses a different path by opening a record store in what, at the time, was the most bombed half-mile in Europe. It’s through his store, Good Vibrations, that he discovers a compelling voice of resistance in the city’s bourgeoning underground punk scene. But it’s the reluctance of London music big wigs to sign these local bands that sees Good Vibrations transform from a store to a music label, providing an outlet for Northern Ireland’s increasingly disenfranchised youth.
Based on a true story, the whimsical tone and familiar subject matter here is reminiscent of Michael Winterbottom’s 2002 chronicle of the Manchester music scene, 24 Hour Party People. However, where Party People manages to tactfully balance devastating true events with amusing antics, this current effort feels more jarring against the devastation and complexity of the Troubles. In one scene Terri diffuses threats of personal violence by bribing both Loyalists and Republicans with nothing more than a few LPs. Regardless of the authenticity of these events, this scene, among others, feels overly blithe.
Acclaimed comedian Dylan Moran and Game Of Thrones staple Liam Cunningham are overbilled and underutilised as a bar owner and recording studio proprietor respectively. Richard Dormer is barely recognisable from his own Game Of Thrones cameo and while he is undoubtedly charming and captivating in the lead roll, it’s not enough to save this film.
Disappointingly, this portrayal does not do justice to the unique, extraordinary and powerful true story upon which it’s based.
Good Vibrations is in cinemas June 12.