The electrifying “Northern Soul” captures the 1970s British club scene of the same name with ethnographic detail and ebullient style.
Writer-director Elaine Constantine lived this experience herself, and her deep-rooted knowledge shows in the depiction of teenage Motown fiends in 1974 Britain. The film is a lovingly lived-in re-creation of the period with all of its wide-leg trousers and mop-tops, and the Manchester accents are so thick it’s nearly a foreign-language film.
The plot follows John (Elliot James Langridge), a misanthropic high school nerd, as he is plucked from a youth club by Matt (Josh Whitehouse) to be his new best friend and recipient of his knowledge of American soul music, funky dance moves and speed. As the two friends delve deeper and deeper into the scene, trying to make it as DJs, complications arise in the form of women, drugs, crime and jealousy. But nothing stands in the way of the chaotic, pulse-pounding allure of the dance floor, where the sweat flies and the hair spins.
Constantine’s direction is impeccable. The film has a ferocious, shaggy energy that mirrors that of the testosterone-, amphetamine- and adrenaline-pumped boys. But the best high they find is in the club, as do we. This heart-thumping picture is an exciting, edifying look into a subculture and the best DJ movie you’ll see all year, complete with a fantastic soundtrack.
MPAA rating: R for drug use, language, brief sexuality
Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes
Playing: Los Feliz 3