Review: ‘Spike Island’s’ heart beats with love of rock ‘n’ roll

Emilia Clarke finds herself in a love triangle in the film "Spike Island."

Emilia Clarke finds herself in a love triangle in the film “Spike Island.”

(Vera Anderson / WireImage/Getty Images)

The year is 1990, and the do-or-die mission of the Manchester, England, teens in “Spike Island” is to get to a Stone Roses concert, staged by their local heroes amid abandoned chemical factories on the River Mersey. Though the story is drawn in broad strokes and overloaded with melodrama, director Mat Whitecross’ exuberant feature understands the communal joy and personal necessity of rock ‘n’ roll.

Written by actor-turned-screenwriter Chris Coghill, who, like Whitecross, has worked with Michael Winterbottom (“24 Hour Party People”), the film centers on a group of wannabe rockers who eat, drink and breathe the Stone Roses’ music, which is heard throughout the movie. Lifelong friends Garrett (Elliott Tittensor) and Dodge (Nico Mirallegro) are determined to deliver a demo tape to their idols at Spike Island, but the first challenge for these working-class kids is getting there, which they manage through resourcefulness and a touch of larceny.

Though they have more screen time, Garrett and Dodge are barely more complex than the other members of their band, each differentiated by a one-dimensional coming-of-age challenge. Their rivalry plays out over their love of classmate Sally (“Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke), a simple triangle given a bit of oomph by the three actors.


Whitecross undercuts a couple of key moments, including the demo recording, with a heavily chopped, montage-y approach that gives the intended, forced jauntiness of a commercial. But he makes the most of the locations. And though the thick Mancunian accents could have used subtitles, no translation is necessary for the rapturous, rite-of-passage pull of a now-legendary show.

“Spike Island.”

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood. Also on VOD.