out of Five
Running time: 105
Energetic and enjoyable, this coming-of-age story about a group of five Mancunian teenagers who travel to Spike Island to see The Stone Roses is stylishly shot and features an expectedly strong soundtrack, but the script feels contrived and the clichéd voiceover is rather annoying.
What’s it all about?
Directed by Mat Whitecross, Spike Island stars Elliot Tittensor as Tits, a Mancunian teen and lead singer of a rising indie band, who worship The Stone Roses and hope to one day follow in their footsteps. When the Roses announce their now legendary gig in Spike Island, Cheshire in May of 1990, the aspiring 16 year olds (a mixed bunch that also include Dodge, Zippy, Little Gaz and Penfold) see it as the perfect opportunity to sneak backstage after the gig and deliver their demo tape to the band. But with Tits’ dad seriously ill in hospital, Tits’ chances of seeing The Stone Roses look uncertain and when the group’s ticket contact lets them down last minute, things take a turn for the even worse.
Lovingly directed by Mat Whitecross and written by Chris Coghill, Spike Island is a stylishly shot and engaging film that’s appealing to watch thanks to its heavily spirited storyline and the re-emerging relevance of The Stone Roses in today’s media (the band recently performed two consecutive sold out gigs in London’s Finsbury Park). Unsurprisingly, the soundtrack (which expectedly consists of The Stone Roses’ back catalogue) is fantastically fitting and upbeat, breathing life into every scene and skilfully reflecting the youthful energy of the film’s characters.
Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke is unrecognisable as Tits’ love interest Sally and despite being 26 years old in real life, she’s remarkably convincing as the pined-over teen. Finally, Lesley Manville as Tits’ grief-stricken mother Margaret, who understandably disapproves of her youngest son running off to Spike Island whilst his dad’s seriously ill in hospital, is as excellent as you would expect her to be.
Unfortunately, Chris Coghill’s passionate script feels a little clunky and contrived (cringe-worthy phrases such as ‘buzzing our nuts off’ are heavily used and at one point the boys unnaturally moan about how things would be so much easier to find the girls at the gig if they ‘had a Motorola’) and Tits’ voiceover at the beginning gets the film off to an annoying start. For the actual gig, Whitecross attempts to make it look too realistic by merging the dramatised scenes with actual footage of The Stone Roses performing at Spike Island, but there’s a sense that the film would have looked a lot slicker if he’d resisted doing so.
Despite its clichéd dialogue, Spike Island is a watchable and engaging film and its infectious soundtrack and appealing storyline should be enough to satisfy any Stone Roses’ fan. Worth watching.