Make music, not mayhem

Good Vibrations still

The lenses though which we see The Troubles are many and varied. This film about a DJ whose story in Belfast draws the general from his specifics turned into a box office success.

On the whole, audiences will receive many good vibrations while watching this film. This reviewer saw it with only one other person in the cinema preview and really wished that there were more people present, sharing their vibrations. It is a feel-good film though it is set in many difficult days in Belfast of the 1960s and 1970s and during the Troubles.

This is the story of a Belfast man, who considered himself the best DJ in Belfast in the 1960s. His name is Terri Hooley, who also acted as a consultant for the film. He is played with quite some exuberance by Richard Dormer, bringing this character with all his strengths and his many flaws to quite vivid life.

Terri worked in a Belfast club but customers were in decline. With his growing awareness of the punk music movement, he was interested in promoting local bands, holding auditions, giving the players opportunities, inviting audiences, making records, and trying to promote them, even going to the BBC where he was not particularly well received although famous music DJ, John Peel, was supportive.

There are fantasy sequences in the film, especially with Terri's childhood, imagining himself flying in his garden, the home where his communistic father, who stood for Parliament, very often and was always defeated, trying to inculcate a socialist awareness in his son. He was not particularly impressed when Terri had the brainwave of starting up a shop, a music shop, in central Belfast. The name of the shop was Good Vibrations. For many years, it was the centre of musical sales and activities and promotions.

Terri thought that music, especially the punk music of the period would attract young people and transcend the divisions of politics and hatred. To some extent, he was right.

The other important thing in his life was his meeting his wife, dancing with her, proposing, the hardships of their life together, his investing her savings in his enterprises, her supporting him despite so much exasperation. But, Terri also led a comparatively wild life, music being all rather than clear economics and accounts, running the risk of squandering his capital, always in view of his music dream.

This had some bad consequences on his marriage, his drinking, even his inability to hold his young baby with his trembling hands.

Yet, he persevered with his vision, was supportive of many musicians and groups, enjoyed promoting them, even despite threats of sectarian boycotting and disturbances in Belfast. There is a powerful supportive concert in Belfast at the end, Terri making his mark.

The film is enjoyable in its way, Richard Dormer's performance being most impressive, and, in the context of Irish troubles, an affirmation of the message: Make music not war.

 - Reviewed by Fr Peter Malone MSC, an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting. Curious Films.

Good Vibrations, Ireland. Starring Richard Dormer, Jodie Whittaker, Liam Cunningham, Dylan Moran. Directed by Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glen Leyburn. Rated MA (Strong coarse language). 104 minutes. Out now.

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