dir Shimmy Marcus
scr Jeff Williams
prd Christine Alderson
with Martin Compston, Felicity Jones, Nichola Burley, Alfie Allen, Pat Shortt, Craig Parkinson, Brennan Reece, Jo Hartley, Brian McCardie, Huey Morgan, Mary Jo Randle, Bill Fellows
release UK 27.Aug.10
10/UK 1h23
Let's dance: Compston

sw sw sw
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
SoulBoy Even though the plot of this 1970s-set drama is a bit simplistic, the film is sweet and surprisingly dramatic, holding our attention because of the energetic, good-looking cast. Plus all those groovy outfits and songs.

Joe (Compston) is bored with his deliveryman job and with hanging out at the cheesy local bar/nightclub. Then he spots gorgeous hairdresser Jane (Burley), who introduces him to the world of Northern Soul. Even he's surprised how much he enjoys the all-night dances at Wigan Casino, although his best pal Russ (Allen) isn't so sure and thinks some drugs might help. There Joe also runs into his friend Dexie (Reece), whose sister Mandy (Jones) helps Joe learn the steps and the culture. She also rather confuses his pursuit of Jane.

Director Marcus paints the screen with a colourful flurry of mid-70s textures, from shaggy haircuts to polyester trousers. And of course the songs are fabulous, from the disco hits to the soul tracks this movement revived. All of the scenes play out on screen with raw physicality, as these young people pour their bodies into every shape imaginable on the dance floor. And this colourful energy makes the film good fun to watch even when the requirements of the plot kick in.

But the story becomes a bit of a problem as things progress, mainly due to a couple of bleak turns of events involving drugs and violence. These elements almost take over the film, sucking the feel-good quality out of it. As a result, the romantic entanglements and the joy of dancing are gloomier than they should have been. And just as the film could be cranking up into a big crowd-pleasing climax, it instead turns heavy and serious.

That said, it's a very well-made film. We may want it to be a buoyant, exhilarating celebration of Northern Soul, but as a darker drama about the times, it's extremely well-observed, even if the script's cautionary elements are rather preachy. But Compston is superbly likeable at the centre, helping us feel his love for the dance floor and creating nice chemistry with both Burley and Jones. And the strong supporting cast provides enjoyable texture around the edges.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 17.Jun.10 eiff

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