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Film review: Good Vibrations (15)


Seventies Belfast lacked folk heroes, but this drama argues for one in the unlikely character of Terri Hooley, one-eyed owner of the Good Vibrations record shop on Great Victoria Street, "the most bombed half-mile in Europe".

As played by Richard Dormer, Terri is a force of nature, a music nut whose passion overrode the sectarianism of the times and put Northern Irish punk on the map. Without his petitioning of John Peel at the BBC, the world might never have got to hear The Undertones.

That sense of Belfast as a frustrated outpost – quite apart from being a war zone – comes over keenly in a smart script by Colin Carberry and Glenn Patterson. When Terri's friend tells him he has to go to London, Terri replies, "Don't take it hard. You're still special."

The film perhaps misses an equally strong personality – Jodie Whittaker plays his wife, Ruth, as the definition of long-suffering – and some of the 1970s wigs are atrocious (Adrian Dunbar's seems to have landed on his head from a great height).

 Hooley's flaws aren't soft-pedalled, and his fecklessness with money probably drove his family mad – even when his record label packs out the Ulster Hall in 1980, he still makes a loss – and yet it seems of a piece with his single-minded aim to create an "alternative Ulster".

As his old-school socialist dad reminds him, "If they can't buy you, they can't own you." It's a heartwarming tale, driven along by a great, raucous medley of punk, rock and reggae.