Friday, 10 September 2010
Stoke-on-Trent 1974 and Joe (played by Martin Compston) has left school, delivers flour with a Tom Jones enthusiast by day and gets drunk in a local bar for local people who dance to Mud records by night. Then he becomes wrapped, tied and tangled in the world of Northern Soul…
Beneath the spins, acrobatics and sweaty vests of Shimmy Marcus’s SoulBoy is an ordinary coming of age film about a lad who falls for the walking-in-slow-motion-with-blonde-hair-blowing-in-the-wind Jane (Nichola Burley), whilst the (supposedly) plain bit-frumpy-at-school brunette Mandy (Felicity Jones) harbours a secret crush and teaches him to dance in his bedroom. You know what follows. It’s formulaic and clichéd but thanks to the setting, music, period detail and gentle humour actually hard to dislike and difficult to watch without a slight smile.
Northern Soul itself is the star though. Hearing Yvonne Baker, Patti and the Emblems, Luther Ingram, Jason Knight, Billy Preston, Dean Parrish and co blaring out cinema speakers instead of the rattling ones at the 100 Club brings on the old goose bumps, and whoever managed to squeeze in Porgy and the Monarchs “If It’s For Real” deserves the keys to Wigan. Set in the Casino it blends archive footage with new scenes making the joins difficult to see.
The cringe worthy moments were unexpectedly low, although I did wince at clapping in unison to “Tainted Love” and any scene with Huey Morgan as the ridiculous cartoon hippie record shop owner cheapened the overall effect. Also Jane’s boyfriend who ruled the roost with his dancing at the front of the Casino stage was too old and ugly to be dating the belle of the ball. But generally it looked good and made the scene out to be an exciting place to be, covering the dancing, records, fashions, drugs and violence with admirable believability. It's not a documentary or a gritty drama, just a nice way to spend a hour and a half. Nowt wrong with that.
If you’ve ever been bitten by the soul bug there’s plenty to enjoy and recognize; if not, this might – just – tempt you out on the floor.