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Soulboy is directed by Shimmy Marcus and written by Jeff Williams. It
stars Martin Compston, Felicity Jones, Alfie Allen, Nichola Burley, Pat
Shortt and Craig Parkinson. Music is by Len Arran and photography by
1974, Stoke-On-Trent, and Joe McCain (Compston) is tiring of his humdrum, repetitive life. Then one day, prompted by his work colleague Brendan (Shortt), Joe finds the gumption to seek a date with pretty hairdresser Jane Rogers (Burley). She opens up a new world to him, a burgeoning music scene in the North of England known as Northern Soul, the epicentre of which is the Casino Club in Wigan. But as Joe begins to find his identity in a blast of all night dancing and friendship, drugs, violence and matters of the heart begin to hover over him like dark clouds waiting to unload.
Be Young, Be Foolish, Be Happy.
It's best just to say it straight off, this is hardly a film to do Northern Soul justice. The movement itself is forming the backdrop to a very basic, run-of-the-mill, coming of age romantic tale. Which is sad, that the plot is so weak and poorly written, because the music, dancing and period awareness is joyous. But at least its heart is in the right place, as it's always charming and quite often funny before things get serious in the final third; even if a dance off sequence in said final third is unintentionally daft. From the 70s vibe of Stoke-On-Trent, with the terrace houses and the potteries buildings, to the recreation of Wigan's famous Casino Club (it sadly burnt down in 1981), Marcus and his team really have an eye for period milieu (impressive given Marcus is a born and bred Dubliner). Shaggy hair cuts, platform shoes, tank-tops and Brut 33 aftershave, all keep us firmly in the time of setting, while vintage vehicles, although in short supply because of the small budget, also give the film that vital 70s edge.
Performances are mixed, but lead lad Compston (Red Road) does a grand job of conveying a 17 year old guy in limbo. With a killer smile and a good helping of dexterity for the dance sequences, he's engaging and provides a characterisation that's easy to get on side with and follow through to the end. Burley (Donkey Punch) is under written in what is meant to be one of the main parts, but this does allow the lovely Felicity Jones (Cemetery Junction) to shine through and bounce of off Compston's energy to great effect. Parkinson (Control) is badly miscast as dance floor bully Alan, while a fledgling romance between Jo Hartley (This is England) and Pat Shortt (Garage) doesn't offer much to the plot, which is a shame since both are more than capable actors. Vladimir Trivic's photography leans more to grime than glitz, which actually serves the film well, sort of paying homage to the working class roots of the main players. The sound track, picked by the likes of Paul Weller, is excellent.
It's not all it can be, mainly because plotting and writing is too weak. But it has great moments of levity and vitality (watching those kids dance is a real treat), to ensure it's enjoyable and never dull. 7/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It has taken far too long for a film about Northern Soul to come to
fruition. Thankfully when it did happen it was a belter.
This is a great movie and they have recreated the time and the passion really well.It's beautifully shot and the grainy film gives it an old feel whilst at the same time allowing the original dance footage to blend seamlessly.
The story works well, although I was a little disappointed with the dance off. I am fairly sure it would have just been a fight but by the time this took place I was so invested in the whole feel of the film that I really couldn't care. It didn't spoil the film.
The cameo from Fun Lovin' Criminal Huey was a bit out of place. No idea who chose to put him in that role but for me it didn't work.
There were great touches of detail from the era, from the splash of Brut to the hideous platform shoes. The dance scenes were superb especially the long shots with a see of bodies bouncing on a crowded dancefloor.
I don't know if my enjoyment was heightened because of my love for the scene but all in all this was a superb movie. I just hope it gets the recognition and wide viewing it deserves.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Funny, nostalgic, some good tunes. Boy wants girl, other girl loves
boy, boy makes right choice!!!!
Just watched this on DVD. I moved away from Lancs to Kent and there isn't the opportunity down here to still go dancing or be involved with the die hard scene.
The music was good, some real classics, but it could have been better. The attention to retro clothing, bags, badges and the all important photocopied fliers was good. They got the Casino sign spot on and the bin on Mavis's counter was a touch. They even managed to get in the stairs, although these actually ended at the cloakroom or in the main hall the balcony and next door Mr M's.
I cried after some of the documentary footage (which you would only identify if you had been there. Very cleverly done but obvious if you observe the balcony closely.) Two good friends deceased long ago through drugs, lovely people, misguided and sadly missed.
Shame it didn't mention post Casino swimming and the obligatory fry up!!! Coaches were good, they did the same to Blackpool Mecca.
I don't think that you can actually walk to Stoke from Wigan????..................although it has probably been tried.
The dance offs at the end..........tacky. Would never happen,,,,,,,, I often danced in front of the stage!!!!!!!!!!
Northern Soul is back, it's being pumped into bars and clubs with
rising regularity. Understandably with every resurrected craze, it had
been converted into a film last year. The story is bland at best, with
a predictable and formulaic path. The saving grace is a good
performance by Martin Compston and the great soundtrack.
Soulboy is branded as a comedy drama, the comedy it speaks of is provided by various cheap jokes throughout, nothing showing real wit or craftsmanship. Cringe worthy dialogue and scenes abound with fairly wooden character acting providing the backdrop for see through storytelling.
Joe, as the likely lad, gets mixed up in drugs and the plot takes a dark turn. As it's a light hearted drama, no real harm comes of the actions. I don't want to bash the director and producers of the film as it is brilliantly shot, the dance scenes are a real treat to watch (except for the painful dance off) and everything is set up perfectly for the 70's from the platforms to the flares and the god awful red tank top. Regarding the dance off, maybe I'm wrong, but it seems to me that in Wigan in the 70's it would've been a fight not a dance. The film didn't need that scene but obviously someone had the bright idea of a big Hollywood style ending. This isn't what the audience wanted from a Northern Soul tribute.
Despite all of the problems with this film, it is enjoyable, mainly because of the music, some of which I've now added to my collection. If you enjoy Northern Soul then this film will get you yearning for the Casino Club, if you don't then there isn't a great deal else to draw you in as the script and predictability make it a no brainer of a watch. Without the music, this is a poor man's An Education.
I remember the buzz around this film a few years ago because it was shot in Stoke and part financed by the now disbanded Screen West Midlands. With whom I had some professional involvement. I can't add anything to the already excellent user comments about this film but will say what I would do differently were I making it. As other users say its a coming of age story set against the northern soul scene of the mid seventies. I've got interested enough in northern soul to have researched it and Wigan Casino was one of umpteen clubs across the midlands and north of England. My strongest criticism of this film is it doesn't work within its constraints of a low budget and the attempts to re create the Wigan Casino don't convince. They needed a bigger budget, a bigger cast of extras and so on. If I was making the film I'd have thought a lot smaller and set it in a fictional soul club or maybe even a youth club in Stoke on Trent. Stoke had a major Northern soul venue in any case I can t remember the name, as did places like Droitwich and Wolverhampton. When Hollywood do period films they have the budget to chuck at it that it convinces. We can't do it. There's all of three period vehicles that appear in the film. Some of the costumes and detailing are wrong. Did digital watches have alarms in 1974? I doubt it. But this is nonetheless entertaining and worth a watch, especially if you like retro drama. I've seen clips from the forthcoming NORTHERN SOUL film which looks a lot more convincing. I was six years old in 1974 so too young to be part of any scene but I still remember the decade and certain things can transport me back. There's a certain 'look' to the seventies and it needs a budget to achieve a convincing rendition in a film. What I saw of NORTHERN SOUL seemed to have it. SOULBOY is 2/3 of the way there, a commendable effort, worth seeing but in my opinion it would have been better if it had been a little more modest in it's ambitions.
The basic scenario of SOULBOY is a familiar one: boy Joe (Martin
Compston) meets unattainable girl (Nichola Burley) and follows her up
to a club in Wigan that functions as the center of Northern Soul. There
he learns how to dance, but while doing so he gradually discovers that
plain lass Mandy (Felicity Jones) has fallen in love with him. After
Mandy takes an overdose, Joe realizes his true feelings. Back in the
club he has an energetic dance-off with smarmy Alan (Craig Parkinson),
and emerges triumphant, thereafter to enjoy love with Mandy.
The grimy, down-at-heel atmosphere of mid-Seventies Stoke-on-Trent is admirably evoked by director Shimmy Marcus, from the poky two-up, two-down houses to the local pub, where everyone pours pints down without ever seeming to enjoy themselves. Joe's mate Russ (Alfie Allen) has a grotesque dance that he calls the "dying fly," but he can only perform that when he is drunk. Sometimes Marcus overdoes the Seventies aura, such as having politician Enoch Powell speaking on one of the car radios; by 1974 he was virtually a spent force in politics, having resigned from the Conservative Party and joined the Ulster Unionists. Some of the cars seem a little antiquated too, dating from a decade earlier.
Once the action shifts to the club, however, the mise-en-scene changes abruptly. Vladimir Trivic's camera admirably captures the phantasmagoria of color, light, bodily movements, sweat and unadulterated fun that characterized the late-night gigs at the club, whose patrons came from all over the country each Saturday night by coach to enjoy the fun. For those of us with longer memories, the set pieces have strong echoes of Saturday NIGHT FEVER (1977) with Joe in the John Travolta role, but that resemblance does not detract from the exuberant staging, in which music and dance combine to create a series of stirring sequences. The final dance-off between Joe and Alan is something to behold: director Marcus uses slow-motion and frequent close-ups to make us aware of the sheer effort involved by the protagonists.
The film ends with a series of of short interviews from people - now very much middle-aged - that frequented the club when it was in its heyday during the mid-Seventies. Their reminiscences capture the atmosphere of excitement and daring that was characteristic of the club; no wonder it was named "best disco in the world" later on in the decade, despite its assuming location in a Lancashire industrial town.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Once again we are presented with many different versions of the helpless, bumbling, western male until the lead male 'does a little dance' in order to impress a member of the opposite sex in the hope of some kind of redemption and therefore place in society and reason to exist. The film struggles to find a consistent tone, verging from someone getting a horrible beating in the toilets of the casino to the male lead's inane grinning throughout the film. Further variations in tone range from someone receiving oral sex in a car to real life memories of the northern soul scene shown over the credits. The music takes a back seat to clique-ridden window dressing.
"SoulBoy" has as its background the Northern Soul scene of the 1970's. It's a dim little picture only partly redeemed by the charismatic presence of the immensely likable Martin Compston and some very decent tunes. As a 'period' picture it's totally manufactured, all the costumes and props looking like they came out of a retro charity shop. It just about passes the time but you can tell there is a much better film lurking in the background trying to get out. It's like a British attempt to resurrect something like "Saturday Night Fever" or "Footloose" and that's where it fails miserably. This is one film unlikely to see the light of day anytime in the future.
There are a lot of white blues musicians heavily influenced by black
blues legends and yet ironically display racists views. Cough, Eric
Clapton for example although he claims he was drunk at the time.
In the same vein, Wigan is one of the most racists town in Britain. I went there once with an Asian friend and it was eye popping the blatant racism on display and the people of Wigan seemed to be rather proud of this. Then again what do you expect when the town's rugby supporters would throw bananas on the pitch for one of their own highly paid black rugby players.
This kind of prejudice is always conveniently overlooked when programme makers examine the history of the Wigan Casino. Still the Wigan Casino has attained legendary status as the dance mecca for 1960s American soul music, daring dance moves and later on giving a new lease of life to the soul legends of yesteryear.
SoulBoy gives a slice of life in the 1970s when a young lad, Joe (Martin Compston) from Stoke discovers the joys of Soul music, dancing, Wigan Casino, getting girls and popping pills. He falls for a blonde but its a brunette who is his true soul mate. Along the way he crosses swords with a nasty ace dancer who is the boyfriend of the blonde one and Joe's fellow work mate has a thing for the wife from the local chip shop whose husband is the jealous and violent type.
There are several cast members who have ended up later in the BBC TV series Line of Duty, so you have here a few familiar faces if you watch Line of Duty.
SoulBoy is a low budget movie, filmed in Stoke. It has a slight storyline but there is a lot of heart in the acting. It does try to be a Staffordshire version of Saturday Night Fever although the final dance off does look a little weak.
The film did miss a nice humorous twist where it should have had a present day scene when all the now aged dancers from the Wigan Casino days are lining up at the local hospitals waiting for their hip and knee replacement surgery!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was really excited about this film being released, based round the
northern soul scene, the recreation of the Wigan Casino and all that,
so was very pleased to see it was showing in Portsmouth to coincide
with my visit.
I left feeling disappointed. It is basically a boy meets girl out of reach, boy chases girl out of reach etc. He tries to impress her and win her by getting involved and interested in the club she travels from Stoke to, The Wigan Casino.
The cast do well with a script that follows the well worn scenarios we've seen before in other films and the nostalgia is great. Seeing the sign of the Casino Club as they got off the coach genuinely put the hairs on the back of my neck up and some of the indoor dance scenes were OK too, even if they relied too heavily on the old documentary shots from the seventies to fill. I thought they had brought in loads of dancers from the current scene to film? Surely they could have used more of these? The music choice was great and there were some genuinely funny moments, but overall I felt it was more a film that started as a storyline and they needed a cult scene to base it round to fill seats because without it there wouldn't be much of a film and chose northern soul. That is probably not right but I just felt that.
I also spent the film wondering why everyone was so bowled over by this blonde girl he was besotted with when the brunette that fancied him was far better looking.
Not a great film but an enjoyable one if only for the nostalgia, just don't watch it expecting it to be about the northern soul scene as such, two quick examples to that, the dance off at the end was embarrassing and not something you'd have seen at Wigan, same with someone spinning on their back, but it is a harmless ninety minutes if you want an easy film to watch.
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