DIR: Lisa Barros D’Sa, Glenn Leyburn  WRI: Colin Carberry, Glenn Patterson  PRO: Andrew Eaton, David Holmes, Chris Martin  ED: Nick Emerson  DES: Derek Wallace  CAST: Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Dylan Moran, Adrian Dunbar

Feelgood films have been notoriously thin on the ground in this country. A feelgood film set during the Troubles must be setting a record of some sort. It helps that the subject matter of this lively and joyous film actually concerns records and music rather than dwelling too much on sectarian unrest.

Based on the efforts of aspiring mogul Terri Hooley’s to set up both a record store and a music label in Belfast in the 1970s, Good Vibrations amounts to a powerful and endearing testament to a life dedicated to following a calling. Terri’s muse was music. The film depicts him as a force of nature. A bubbling and bumbling entrepreneur overflowing with ideas but useless (or perhaps unconcerned) with money. A man fully cognizant of the dangers of trying to straddle the sectarian divide but prepared to gamble that music could have a unifying effect on a youth culture crying out for a local outlet.

The film is super-charged by a blistering central performance of immense charm by Richard Dormer. It’s the biggest and best decision the directing team of Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D’Sa had to make. And they aced it with Dormer. This film would stand or fall by that crucial piece of casting and having seen Dormer as Hooley, it’s now impossible to imagine anyone else excelling to the extent he does. Well maybe there is one person because Dormer did remind me of a more effervescent hirsute version of Flight of the Conchords manager Murray. But that’s high praise in my book and this could and should be a star making role for the Armagh actor.

Judging by the portrayal etched by the film, Terri’s personable and passionate nature was key to the incremental success he began to have. He won people over. Often one at a time. His decisions were rarely business based with inevitable repercussions down the line but the film brilliantly recreates an era of blossoming possibilities as Terri tries his hand at organising gigs and recording sessions with varying results. The historic moment of John Peel granting pivotal radio play for The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ is given a wonderful twist as Terri misses the moment. Or thinks he has. Even for those who know what happened next – it’s an expertly realised ‘big movie moment’ for all involved.

I’m striving to avoid the seemingly inevitable paragraph of where Good Vibrations goes wrong but it barely contains a false beat. Beyond the elbowing of Jodie Whittaker playing Terri’s wife to the margins of the film. Even this is reflecting a universal truth of a faithful practical partner needing to anchor a dreamer in these kinds of relationships but it doesn’t allow the actress much room to move dramatically.

Irish audiences seem to have a real appetite for comedy at the moment. I won’t make any blindingly obvious references to comedy thriving in times of recession but with punters turning out in huge numbers for fare like The Guard and Hardy Bucks, it would be a shame for this little film with big heart to slip under the radar. It may lack the high visibility appeal of a name actor or the profile and following of a TV show but you’d be hard pressed to find a more positive and groovy film-going experience this year.

James Phelan

15A (see IFCO website for details)

Good Vibrations is released on 29th March 2013


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