Soulboy (15)

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The Independent Culture

Film of the week, by a distance, is this charmer about provincial youth in 1974. Joe (Martin Compston), frustrated by the pinched horizons of Stoke-on-Trent and his delivery-van job, falteringly finds his groove when he ventures (by bus, of course) to the legendary Wigan Casino, home to Northern Soul and its ecstatic bendy-bodied dance moves.

The writer-director Shimmy Marcus styles Joe as heir to the kitchen-sink realists of the 1960s, less fly than Albert Finney, less muscular than Richard Harris, but in Compston's touching portrayal blessed with a grave charisma of his own. The cast around him is equally assured – Nichola Burley as a too-cool-for-you hairdresser, Felicity Jones as an aspiring art student and the brilliant Pat Shortt as his chivalrous workmate. The film, made on a shoestring, is a little rough around the edges, yet driven by such a genuine love of its milieu and the period texture (pasty complexions, Gola bags, rare vinyl) that you find yourself cheering it along. The music, most of it imported from black America, is superb.