Review: Good Vibrations @QFTBelfast

Good Vibrations is a film about Belfast music legend, Terri Hooley, who was responsible for discovering The Undertones and recording Teenage Kicks (which radio DJ Jonathan Peel famously played twice in a row).

UTV film critic Brian Henry Martin described Good Vibrations as “born, bred and buttered” in Belfast. The film is a total local production, from screenplay, casting, directing and production. This always runs the risk of the output being a bit twee, satisfying for the nearby residents but failing universal appeal.

Not so with Good Vibrations. It is an amazing film.

Brilliant in every way. The acting is top quality, by lead actor Richard Dormer and all others. The contextualisation is handled very well — challenging to set the scene during the Troubles without it getting too depressing. The direction is spot on, keeping the story moving along and ensuring a consistency of performance (just one scene where a female pedestrian walking alongside them was a distraction).

And superb editing, which film editor Nick Emerson explained during a post-screening Q&A session,  as part of QFT Film Club:

Nick learned about the Good Vibrations film project while finishing another on the film Cherrybomb, in 2008. A lot of time was spent in raising funds to ensure the film could get made.

He told us editing challenges. Any film has a “long film”, that from which you edit. In the case of Good Vibrations, this was two-and-a-half hours long, complicated by their desire to keep adding material! Another challenge was the fact that they were dealing with someone’s legacy (and of someone still alive as well as everyone who experienced the events). The film was “fun to do, but there was stuff not to be trivialised,” Nick said.

Nick expands on this by describing how so many involved with the film, the directors, producers, cast and himself, all grew up during the Troubles and were affected by it:

“We spent a full week watching [the archives]. It was very, very traumatic. There were some very unpleasant things to watch … We were all from here. Belfast made us the way we are: even if you tried not to, you couldn’t help but bring Belfast into the piece.”

Simon Wood from Northern Visions asked Nick whether he was afraid of meeting real people on the street, who might react negatively to their portrayal in the film. “At the end of the day it’s not a documentary. You need to be true to the story,” answered Nick.

Nick described Terri Hooley’s involvement in the film. Glenn (Delaney?) had a series of conversations with Terri over years, and Terri was present on the set during filming, but Nick added that Terri was respectful of the process and didn’t interfere.

In regards to music selection, “it was a pleasure when you were dealing with so many great tracks”. I asked Nick if there was going to be a soundtrack, as well as where we could get an unabridged list of tracks he dealt with. “We’re working on it” and “Spotify” were his replies.

The final comment from the audience was from someone who knew Terri “for a very long time”:

“I always knew Terri as a person with a great love for music. He had a great love for people, so he did. As a matter of fact, he gave me a lot of records, never even charged me for them.”

Nick replied, “I hope that came across [in the film]. Terri has a heart of gold. He’s such a good soul … He undoubtedly did a tremendous amount for the kids here in the 1970s and 80s.”

Good Vibrations is indeed a heart-warming and uplifting story of a man and place in troubled times.

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