Friday 17 October 2014

"Northern Soul" (The Guardian 17/10/14)

Northern Soul ***
Dir: Elaine Constantine. With: Steve Coogan, Antonia Thomas, Elliot James Langridge. 102 mins. Cert: 15

That site-specific 70s youthquake that saw disaffected Lancastrian teenagers spinning to underheralded American floorfillers has been dramatised once before, in 2010’s likable low-budgeter SoulBoy. Photographer-turned-director Elaine Constantine here offers a more expansive, detailed study: she spies how this scene didn’t just shelter misfits like her protagonist John (the smartly cast Elliot James Langridge, resembling an unstable Richard Beckinsale), but expanded the horizons of anybody feeling oppressed by lingering patrician values. The search for tunes less twee than Melanie’s ever-present “Brand New Key” transforms them all into dreamers and voyagers; each cut around this dour Wilson-era landscape only allows us to feel America’s pull all the more. Those deathlessly crafted songs retain greater momentum than John’s somewhat anecdotal trudge from innocence to experience, but every other scene happens across a Northern treasure (Coogan, Thomson, Tomlinson, Stansfield) and looks, feels and – crucially – sounds true to its sweaty-hazy, slightly cramped corner of history. 

Northern Soul opens in selected cinemas from today, ahead of its DVD release this Monday.

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