With a fairly straight and narrow plot-line and a hero worth cheering for, it’s easy to like Elaine Constantine’s Northern Soul. And, like 20 000 Days on Earth, it’s worth going to see with a pint in your hand and the old guard around you. Leaving the 18:25 showing, I passed a queue of older, fatter versions of the lads on the screen eagerly waiting for the 20:35.
Rising from obscurity, Elaine Constantine (a Bury native) directs her first film and clearly knows her Northern Soul, gaining the approval of baby boomers. But she hasn’t created a nostalgic documentary like The Story of Lover’s Rock – rather Northern Soul is a fast-paced crowd-pleaser over a fun hour-and-a-half.
John Clark (Elliot James Langridge) is a disillusioned Lancastrian teenager, living in a boring town in 1974. But upon making a new friend in Matt (Josh Whitehouse), John is finds a new passion, a passion for Northern Soul.
Soft lenses and an excellent wardrobe make up the obvious appeal of this film: so much so I just assumed I’d missed the BBC or Film4 title card in the opening credits. Northern Soul presents itself in the same spirit as Made in Dagenham or Tamara Drew, tapping into our soft spot for a particular time or place, a very British time or place, perhaps at the expense of the story. Made in Dagenham’s cosy and bloated finale is almost replicated in Northern Soul as it finishes on the bond between John and Matt, something that we’ve not really been taught to care about, it wouldn’t seem tragic if they’d drifted apart. But generally Constantine keeps it down to earth. And there’s an absolutely fantastic bit in the middle, where a sweaty group of dancers is navigated with all kinds angled close ups, editor Stephen Harren deserves praise for his work with what must have been hours of material. I’d even suggest that Harren’s last film project, this year’s Under Milk Wood for the BBC, influenced this film. The scenes in the dancehall have the same fluidity as the dream sequences with shots focused on expression and are easy on the eyes.
John Clark is, also, some one it’s easy to root for; a short and television actor all his life, he makes his break into features with this film effortlessly and keeps his character sufficiently moody whilst still being likeable. With this in mind, Northern Soul has a massive appeal for young people as well.
‘If you were there, you’ll know. If you weren’t, you’ll wish you had been.’ is Northern Soul’s tagline and you’ll certainly feel rattled up after this film. Even if it seems a bit generic at first (though a few jokes from Steve Coogan should help you through that), you’ll definitely feel like punching Rockers off the A577 in good time.