To capture that pocket of time and emotion, director Constantine has taken to the dance floor to make a film version of that era. Set in 1974 it follows the lives of two young lads who become entwined in the music and lifestyle of northern soul. They aim to one day save up and travel to the US, with hopes of bringing back rare records that will enhance their standing in the scene. But these two friends must also deal with rivalries, violence and drug abuse.
Eagerly anticipating a movie of the northern soul scene, one that projects the movement as life changing for those who were there. But the film feels more like it’s trying to show the music and dancing than the overall lifestyle of northern soul. The shots of dancing are frenetic and pulsating, pretty much capturing it perfectly. It shows how much work went into this form of dancing and why it was such a force on the dance floor. The music selection is the opposite though. The songs selected are too obscure and rare that anyone with a passing interest wouldn’t have a clue as to 90 per cent of the tracks involved. The movie needs more recognisable tunes to open it up to a wider audience. Tainted Love might be too commercial, but where is Al Wilson’s The Snake? Where is Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You? These are the songs that still encapsulate Northern Soul but also hold the door open for new comers. The music is the key in this movie and it hasn’t got it right.
Outside of the music and dancing, Northern Soul falls apart when it tries to create a real story between the two lads. Here it comes across as a separate story that is intertwined occasionally. It’s difficult to care about either of them, one with attitude and one a wafe. The drama between isn’t enough to carry the film. The sub plots involving drugs, gangs and sexual adventures could have come from any teen movie of the past 50 years.
Northern Soul captures the proud and exhilarating Britishness of the original scene. But a lack of empathy with the central characters does little to help the film outside of the dancing scenes.