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« DVD Review: A Taste Of Excitement (1970) | Main | DVD Review: Gainsbourg (2010) »

DVD Review: Soulboy (2010)


To be honest, I have little or no time for northern soul nostalgia. Yes, I enjoy a chunk of the music from that particular scene, but I can do without the never ending desire to re-create the 'Wigan Casino years'. I'm sure it was a good night out, in fact I know it was as two older sisters of mine were regulars there. But they moved on - and maybe others should too. Although for some people, the Wigan nostalgia is a very profitable way of life, so that's hardly going to happen, is it?

Anyway, that nostalgia phobia is exactly the reason why I didn't go and see Soulboy at the cinema and the same reason why I've put off watching and reviewing the DVD that popped through the letter box on Christmas Eve. But today, I bit the bullet and you know what? It's not so bad after all.

It's not so bad because, despite a modest budget, someone has given both the majority of the script and the period detail a bit of thought. Yes, everyone looks like they're off to a 70s fancy dress night, but that's always the case with 70s period pieces. What I'm saying is that you get a feel for both the era and club, which is a great starting point.

The story? Well, it's part love story and part coming of age. Our 'hero' is Joe McCain (Martin Compston), your average 'no mark' and borderline wrong 'un, working his days lugging sacks of potatoes and his weekends down the local social club in Stoke (as well as indulging in a bit of petty theft with his equally 'no mark' mate). Then, one day, he notices hairdresser Jane (Nichola Burley) in the local record shop. She likes soul music, so in an attempt to catch her attention, he does too (as well as getting an unfortunate haircut off her in the salon). So begins his journey to the Wigan Casino, which he becomes aware of via a flyer in that same salon.

Armed with a bad suit and the idiot friend, he gets the coach to the club, making an fool of himself both sartorially and on the dancefloor. Jane isn't available either, she's with the local 'face', drug pusher an all-round bad boy Alan, so he departs the sorry scene with his tail between his legs. Well, almost.

He does catch the eye of Mandy (Felicity Jones), a talented artist and northern soul 'old hand'. She helps Joe develop some musical taste and dancefloor rhythm, hoping their time together will link them romantically. Sadly, it just pushes him closer to Jane, leading to some inevitable tragedy and perhaps one of the worst endings you'll see in a modern-day movie.

Yes, the ending. If you've not seen it, let's just say it manages to get the plot out of a cul-de-sac and not a lot more. Maybe someone got bored of writing it or the budget suddenly got used up. Regardless of that, it does Soulboy no favours.

Which is a shame, as it's not a bad little Brit flick overall. There's a decent narrative, some interesting characters and some nice subplots. It also does the job of showing the youthful excitement of a trip to the Wigan Casino and that particular scene in its prime. Which I'm guessing is pretty much all it set out to do.

But it doesn't wallow in it. Indeed, the movie has a few more strings to its bow - a love story (two, if you count the one relating to Joe's boss on the potato delivery job), some petty crime, a 'drugs don't work' message and as I mentioned earlier, a very good attention to detail for both the era and the Wigan Casino itself. The latter helped in no small way by the use of the classic footage from Tony Palmer's classic Wigan Casino documentary. In the main, you can hardly see the join - and trust me, I was looking.

Purists will hate it, nostalgists will be able to pick holes in it for fun, but the more casual northern soul lover should find much to enjoy here. Personally I was looking at it as a movie rather than a historical document and on that basis, it almost works. It's enjoyable and entertaining, but sadly runs out of steam (or moves) in the last 15 minutes.

If the people behind Soulboy had given more thought to that, they'd have a minor classic on their hands. As it is, Soulboy is simple a movie worth watching. Until the next northern soul flick comes along, which is just a few months away.

Extras? Just some 'making of' footage. This really would have been a better package if the Tony Palmer documentary had been tagged on as well. On the plus side, you can pick it up for £7.99, which certainly adds to the appeal.

Find out more about the DVD at the Amazon website


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