Friday, 12 October 2012

LFF: Spike Island Review

Directed by: Mat Whitecross

Written by: Chris Coghill

Starring: Elliot Tittensor, Nico Mirallegro, Adam Long, Jordan Murphy, Oliver Heald, Emilia Clarke, Matthew McNulty

Plot: Five schools friends, wishing to start up a group in vein of their favourite band, The Stone Roses, try and get to Spike Island in May of 1990 in order to see the greatest gig of their life – The Stones Roses in concert – and pass on a demo tape to the band whilst there.

Spike Island is a loving nod to the power of music and the wonderful effect a band can have on adoring fans. Perhaps what makes the film more special beyond its basic form, style and characterisations, is the music of The Stone Roses. The Manchester band that shot to fame in the early 90s may look like a band of rugged, hostile youths but listen to their music and they embody the phrase, “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. It’s a mantra that this film somewhat follows; those looking at the trailer or poster and seeing just a boisterous group of boys pining for the opportunity to see a band live, may miss out on the more touching aspects of the film.

It’s by no means a perfect film but it is an enjoyable romp that feels very genuine and authentic. Set in 1990 you see the monotonous trend of tracksuits sported by nearly every character, hair styles that appear ancient and language that sometimes sounds alien. None of that detracts from involving yourself into the story however; the various plot-threads relating to each member of the teen group, mostly involving parental guidance or abandonment are formulaic and familiar enough to draw in the general public.

The film’s main pull is arguably the Stone Roses’ music and a story around what their lyrics and melodies mean to thousands of admirers. The angelic and melodious tracks truly brings some scenes to life which is fantastic on one level but worrisome on another – perhaps if this film was to be focused on a different band the charm would be nonexistent. The band’s classics are scattered throughout the soundtrack, a constant reminder of their influence, and serve to support some key emotional scenes. At points the acting, directing and editing is merely satisfactory but paired with a song like “Bye Bye Badman” or “I Am the Resurrection” they seem to evolve into something more substantial; in a way the music is both a blessing and a curse for the film.

What never seems questionable is the writer, director and cast’s love for these tunes – the jolt of energy fans in the audience will feel when hearing the tracks is unfalteringly expressed in the faces and actions of the film’s characters. An issue that may arise about the film is the actors who, despite giving some tremendous performances at points in the film, you can't quite belief as school kids. All the main stars are clearly in their twenties and it is a Grease-style situation all over again. As the film progresses that thought does diminish slightly but never fades from mind, becoming a tad distracting at points.

It’s hard to imagine this film becoming a huge hit – it's aimed at a teenage audience, fans of the Stone Roses and perhaps a general Mancunian demographic who may help towards some decent box-office gross. An average but dulcet teen film with nice moments of poignancy aside visceral celebrations of – specifically, The Stone Roses’ – music. Above all, Spike Island is a fantastic advert for the better types of music versus the barrage of crap in the charts right now – through this film The Stone Roses can and will be resurrected yet again.

By Piers McCarthy. Also posted on LiveForFilms

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