Industrial Lancashire, 1974- two alienated, working class teenagers come together over a love of soul music. Shy, quiet John, (played by Elliot James Langridge,) sees his life revolutionised when he meets Matt (Josh Whitehouse,) an aspiring DJ attempting to introduce the community to the vibrancy of Northern Soul’s style and sound.
A short pre-amble for the un-initiated: Northern Soul was a music and dance movement that emerged in the North of England and the Midlands in the late 1960’s. Its unique style of dancing marked it out as something very new to British culture and enthusiasts would travel to America in order to acquire vinyl Soul records because most simply weren’t available on the British market. Places like Wigan Casino and Blackpool Mecca became synonymous with the movement and were pilgrimages for fans of Northern Soul.
The high-energy trailer gives a feel of the Northern Soul style and sound.
As Matt and John fall deeper into their love of the Northern Soul scene their increasingly drug-fuelled life style gets out of hand, tempers fray and their paths cross. Northern Soul masters an interesting alternative to the myriad of films that have portrayed ‘self-destructive rock star lifestyles’ –there’s great music, there’s drugs and there’s violence, but the glitz and glamour is stripped away, with a bleak Lancastrian back-drop taking its place. Ultimately this setting (and the equally bleak events that transpire,) change makes Northern Soul feel remarkably unique- the film’s soundtrack exudes joy and hope while the reality for the characters only becomes more and more hopeless. That said, the moments of joy in Northern Soul cannot be overlooked, they are absolutely spine-tingling in places and that is no exaggeration.
Anyone wanting an instantly appealing introduction to the genre and movement need look no further.
Northern Soul’s sound-track is, of course, a lynchpin of the film and it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Anyone wanting an instantly appealing introduction to the genre and movement need look no further. The trailer’s claim that “If you weren’t there, you’ll wish you had been,” is spot on as the film re-creates the movement’s unique atmosphere stunningly- parts of this film will make any viewer want to dance.
Notably the film was a writing debut for its writer and director, Elaine Constantine, who was nominated for a BAFTA for such an outstanding debut. Being from Bury (in Lancashire,) herself, no doubt helped Constantine realistically re-create the bleak atmosphere that was primed and ready to be gripped by the erupting wave of the Northern Soul movement. The film was a labour of love and was turned down many times before it was finally produced and screened, pleasingly though upon its eventual release, Northern Soul was a marked success in cinemas- much more so than was predicted.
At a time when youth sub-cultures are arguably dying out this is an enthralling peep hole into the past.
All in all, Northern Soul is a really remarkable film. It tells the story of one of Britain’s great sub-cultures, at a time when youth sub-cultures are arguably dying out this is an enthralling peep hole into the past for many, or solid gold nostalgia for those that were there. Great performances, great writing, a fantastic sound-track and a remarkable uniqueness make this a film well worth your time and money. The film’s moments of heart-pumping joy will live on in your memory for a long time and that alone would make this film stand out from the crowd- truly capturing and conveying such intense happiness on screen is no mean feat. But this film has so much more going for it and is utterly recommendable as a result.
By George Storr