Throughout this movie, whenever people get up to dance, what at first seems a bit haphazard but fun soon turns monotonous and clichéd. They jump on to the dance-floor, bopping from side to side, hips sashaying and having a ball while falling between the chairs of trying to be sexy and just having a good time. Before long though, everyone’s doing it, and doing it over and over again. This long, drawn-out, apparently pointless description of the movie’s dancing is a pretty apt metaphor for Northern Soul on the whole.
Perfectly dredging up the 1970s aesthetic, when Bruce Lee was the height of fashion and music was mostly something to vaguely sway to, oddball recluse John (Langridge) first comes into contact with Matt (Whitehouse), who introduces him to the world of soul music, high-kick dancing, new hairdos and recreational drugs. What starts off as a warm and fuzzy bromance set against the least warm and fuzzy town in England soon loses its way when it quickly becomes apparent that Northern Soul has blatantly no story to tell.
The first act is where all the fun is to be had, but once we reach the long, LONG second act stretch of countless dancing montages and increased drug usage, the movie ditches it’s big names – Steve Coogan, Ricky Tomlinson and, eh, Lisa Stansfield all mostly disappear before the half hour mark – and we’re left with the two leads and a motley crew of all dancing, all fighting drug-dealers. From here on we’re pinballed between plot points, hot-stepping it on to the next, like the movie itself is high on narcotics, filled with nervous energy and a complete lack of concentration.
Writer/director Elaine Constantine has a fantastic eye for setting the period, gets some great performances from her leads, and pumps up the dance scenes with some little known but still fantastic tunes, but Northern Soul feels like a film that began without an end in sight. You might have a better time just buying the soundtrack and just having a 70s themed party at home.