Review: Northern Soul

Director: Elaine Constantine
Cast: Josh Whitehouse, Elliot James Langridge, Antonia Thomas, Steve Coogan

Northern Soul is a joyful and fierce adventure through the streets of adolescence in seventies Lancashire. We follow John (Elliot Langridge Brown) as he struggles against the conventions of a place he feels trapped by and a future he feels forced towards. As is often the case in your teenage years, a begrudging trip to a rather dodgy looking Youth Club changes everything. John discovers Northern Soul, Northern Soul discovers John, Steve Coogan cameos as a rogue teacher with questionable hair and some rose bushes get a pretty good whacking. Northern Soul as a movement spread across Northern England in the mid-1960s championing black American soul music, in particular lesser known releases which were often kept secret by the DJs that played them with ‘all-nighters’ at clubs like the Twisted Wheel and the Golden Torch gaining prominence.

Unlike other ‘coming-of-age’ films, Northern Soul is refreshing in its lack of willingness to follow a traditional story arc, and does a wonderful job of showing the reality of life in 1970’s working class Northern Britain without veering into either sensationalism or monotony. There are aspects of the story that feel underdeveloped – during the course of John’s burgeoning romance with Angela (Antonia Thomas), her status as one of the only mixed-race individuals in their community is mentioned only once, very briefly, but these feel like deliberate choices aimed at giving the characters depth without deviating from the central plot progression. As well as being a charming meander through drugs, dancing and endless profanities, Northern Soul is a tender and rich homage to a genre-defining movement.

Originally published in Crack Magazine

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