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DVD Review

DVD cover

Northern Soul


Starring: Elliot James Langridge, Josh Whitehouse, Steve Coogan, John Thomson, Ricky Tomlinson and Lisa Stansfield
Distributor: Universal Pictures UK
RRP: £14.99
Certificate: 15
Release Date: 20 October 2014

1974 was the era almost devoid of taste and style, it was an age of easy listening and for those of us who endured the bell bottoms and brown clothes, it was more of an endurance test than it was a life. 1974 was also the time when things started to change with a greater access to American soul music. In the north it would plant its firmest roots, creating a whole new scene, northern soul...

Northern Soul (2014 - 1h, 37 min, 44 sec) is a coming of age film written and directed by Elaine Constantine.

John (Elliot James Langridge) is living a bleak and lonely life amongst the degrading dark satanic mills of a northern town, the fictional Lancashire town of Burnsworth, with little chance of getting out, that is until he meets Matt (Josh Whitehouse) down the local youth club who introduces him to soul music and drugs.

This is what John thinks he has been looking for, his home life is unsatisfactory where he is always at odds with his mother (Lisa Stansfield) and school is terminated with a middle finger given to his sarcastic teacher (Steve Coogan). His growing friendship, with the more confident Matt, starts to bring John out of his shell and he begins to dream of owning his own place where the two can play soul music.

As John grows and develops, even setting his sights on a girl, Angela (Antonia Thomas), a local nurse, Matt’s drug use and indiscretions threaten to bring the whole dream crashing down. When the crisis happens the two discover that they have based their friendship on the music and little else.

Constantine, who is better known as a photographer has captured the era beautifully, in all its gory ugliness. You can tell that she has gone for a gritty portrayal of northern youth as few sentences do not contain the work ‘fook’. Truth is that many of the adults also talk this way, which makes for an environment pregnant with potential violence, which often spills out into actual fights. The bleakness of the language neatly mirrors the somberness of their lives and environment. Remember, if you do not remember the seventies, we who were there, lived through them so you didn’t have to.

The two young leads create convincing characters, though the chemistry between the two is often missing, but I think that was the point, when a fantasist and a dreamer collide the only common ground is their shared belief that they can change their lives through music.

Although sharing an equally bleak environment, there is both wit and humour which raises it above the almost total negativity of films like This is England. In its rebellious youth vibe it is more like Quadrophenia. It is in its juxtaposition of the characters ordinary lives and the extraordinary music which inspires them that Constantine tries to explore the magical influence of music to change lives.

The disc contained no extras, which is a pity; the picture was clear, if you like brown.


Charles Packer

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