Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Trending On Empire
Empire's New Tom Cruise Cover
The Jameson Empire Awards 2014
Vote: The Greatest 301 Movies Of All Time!
Rebecca Hall:
My Movie Life

The actress picks the movies that shaped her
Mountain Dew Green Screen
Register Now to see X-MEN First Class!
Empire Blogs
Under The Radar

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2012: Good Vibrations

Posted on Sunday July 1, 2012, 09:27 by Damon Wise in Under The Radar
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2012: Good Vibrations

What is a film about a man who once ran a record shop in Northern Ireland doing opening a film festival in Eastern Europe? That was the question that was bothering me on my way to the 47th edition of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Are they such fans here of arcane punk trivia that a film dramatising the signing of The Undertones would be seen as positively mainstream? But when I finally saw it, I realised that this film by Glenn Leyburn and Lisa Barros D'Sa is actually a pretty good fit for a country that has had to navigate an exit from communism while resisting co-option by the west. Though it appears to be a biopic, Good Vibrations is actually a very buoyant and really quite infectious film about the power of hope as a force for change. It is also – quite crucially at a time when the coalition government is sidelining the young in far worse ways than Margaret Thatcher ever did – a very timely reminder of what a militant youth really stands for and can achieve together.

The reason it works is that Leyburn and Barros D'Sa don't hide from the raw reality of the times; Belfast was a war zone in the 70s, a once mixed city that had become ossified and partisan along religious lines. Into the no man's land in between – which, perhaps for the purposes of this story is apparently just a one-man land – steps Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer), a 60s rocker and music aficionado who spends £40 and, oh, remortgages his house to launch Belfast's first alternative record shop, the Good Vibrations of the title. The shop ticks over, and in the late 70s along comes punk, opening Hooley's one good eye (the other gets seen off in a short, school-days prologue) to the kids who don't want to know about The Troubles and just want to have a good time. Hooley jumps right in there, signing bands like Rudi, The Outkasts and... well, if you're under 30, you probably wouldn't have heard of them. But fame is not Terri's reasoning; instead, he's looking to find the future however he can, even if it's at the expense of his long-suffering wife.

The constraints of being a biopic do show, since the events of Hooley's life tend to make life difficult for the directors, who depict Hooley as a great champion of youth and yet have to deal with the irony of his inability to cope with being a father. There's also the self-aggrandising nature of his personality, and it's a testament to Richard Dormer's excellent performance (perhaps a BIFA nomination is heading his way?) that he makes Hooley sympathetic even as his friends are tearing their hair out over his selfishness and dreamy carelessness. Finally, there are some slightly clunky performances in the background, especially in a montage scene where Hooley goes to London and meets a succession of A&R men played by cast members who won't be troubling the Academy.

But these rough edges are, ultimately, to the film's benefit. It's not even The Commitments, never mind Fame, since this is not the usual rags to riches to rags again story that rock movies like to tell over and over again. Like all the best rock movies, Good Vibrations is about something else, which Leyburn and Barros D'Sa achieve deceptively well in a subplot involving Hooley's father, a failed left-wing politician. Though they seem worlds apart, they are only a lifetime apart, since both want the same things in life by different means. Though it dresses in leather, plays loud guitar and spills pints of snakebit on spit-and-sawdust dancefloors, this is a film about the right to unite and the start of one of the most breathtaking historical turnabouts in the late 20th/early 21st century. This is not to say that Terri Hooley began the peace process single handed but it might easily be ten years further down the line without him. And in the country where the term Velvet Revolution was coined, it seems only fitting that the film telling Hooley's story should begin its life here.

Login or register to comment.

Currently No Comments

Log in below, or register to post comments
Remember Me:


Empire States (432)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (56)

Words From The Wise (33)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


Night Visions 2013: The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears, We Are What We Are, Big Bad Wolves
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Jodorowsky's Dune, Nightsatan & The Loops Of Doom
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Adjust Your Tracking (or Does Anyone Actually Miss VHS?)
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2013: Fresh Meat, The Colony, Sawney
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Sunday and Monday
By Owen Williams

Film4 FrightFest 2013: Thursday and Friday
By Owen Williams

Bloody Cuts In Conversation
By Owen Williams

European Film Awards 2012
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Silje Reinamo and Thale
By Owen Williams

Night Visions 2012: Juan Martinez Moreno and Attack of the Werewolves
By Owen Williams


Aruba 2013: Juan Francisco Pardo Q&A
"Sadece on altı dakika içinde iyi bir görsel hikaye anlatmak önemli beceri ve bel"  skndrdmr
Read comment

Aruba 2013: Opening Gala
"That really amazing."  ommrudraksha
Read comment

2013 IIFF - The Winners
"Hi Simon, Trying to get in touch with you. Hope this works. I enjoyed your piece on Enter t"  matthewpolly
Read comment

Christoph Waltz will win an Oscar
"although its old now :(, of course he was gonna win it :), one of the many idols of why i wanna be a"  SONYA ALALIBO
Read comment

Brisbane International Film Festival: First Report
"I think it is pretty clear the story revolves around The Blacksmith, in The Man With The Iron Fists,"  owenyunfat
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Thanks for the feedback! I hope I didn't give the impression that Cloud Atlas is a write-off; I just"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Hi Damon With regards to Cloud Atlas, I fear that it will face the same problem a"  ChesterCopperpot
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"No worries! I just try to describe things as I see them, and I often forget that, as Empire has grow"  Damon_Wise
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Don't get me wrong, I appreciate your early reviews from the festivals, and of course, I'm not alway"  pythonlove
Read comment

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines
"Ryan Gosling as a stunt rider who has mechanic skills and gets involved in bank heists. It sounds li"  keef_mac
Read comment


Sundance Part Six: In The Loop

The Times BFI London Film Festival Preview

Basterds Blog

Damo's Top Ten Of 2009

Sundance 2010: Four Lions blows everyone away!

Sundance 2010: The Killer Inside Me causes outrage!

Chris Hewitt Of The Year Award!!!!

TIFF 2012: Silver Linings Playbook, The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Cloud Atlas, The Place Beyond The Pines

The Wrestler

Uncle Boonmee: An Explanation

Damon Wise (295)
Helen O'Hara (166)
James Dyer (85)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (54)
James White (28)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
David Parkinson (1)

Ten Things To Know About The Spooks Movie
Under the hood of The Greater Good

Who’s In Spider-Man’s Sinister Six?
A bluffer’s guide to the planned spin-off from the Amazing Spider-films

14 YouTube Videos Every Game Of Thrones Fan Should Have Watched By Now
From goats singing the theme tune to every death in under three minutes

Hollywood's Biggest Names On Their Favourite Films
Stars and directors like Nolan, Whedon, Wright and Ford on the films that inspire them

The Remake Report: Hollywood's Do-Overs Coming Our Way
The redoes, remakes, reboots, reworkings and reimaginings headed our way…

The Nebraska Playlist
Alexander Payne programmes a movie marathon for us

More Found Footage: Another 25 Trailers That Tease Missing Scenes
Further sequences that disappeared between promo and final cut

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save money on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get Limited Edition Collectable X-Men Art Cards

Subscribe today and get 6 issues of Empire plus a set of collectable X-Men Art Cards for only £20!

Subscribe today

Get 12 Issues Of Empire For Just £25
Receive limited edition subscribers-only covers every month Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)