What a unique delight Elaine Constantine has created on her directing debut. Northern Soul is a film that will move you, inspire you, leave your toes tapping and your feet twisting long into the night. Yet this isn’t a film with a powerful narrative. The character’s are not greatly developed and are unlikely to stay with you. Really, this is nothing more than a nod to a time and a place. But what a time, and what a place. Northern Soul is a film made knowing it would stand and fall on the music, the set, the costumes and the dancing. The music soars, the set evokes, the dancing is mesmeric.
Constantine recreates 1970’s Lancashire with charm and no little skill. Everything about the outfits, the streets, the houses, rings true. Through her first hand account of the era, those who weren’t lucky enough to pound the floor of the Wigan Casino are left with a clear picture of why Northern Soul was such an iconic movement. While the 60’s generation in the North fell for Motown, its clear why those who grew up in the 70’s, in an atmosphere of significantly increased decline and disconnect, threw themselves into Motown’s more aggressive predecessor.
Cameo appearances from the likes of Lisa Stanfield, Steve Coogan and Ricky Tomlinson add a touch of stardust to a film that in its production otherwise deliberately tries to mirror the gritty environment it depicts. It is an utterly immersive experience, mainly because Constantine so brazenly lays bare the good and the bad of the movement. This is no romantic nostalgia trip. The drugs, the violence, the brutal collapse of the movement are all at the heart of this film.
Northern Soul took 17 years to finally come to fruition, and it seems so right that it has only come to be thanks to an enormous outburst of people power, with fans up and down the country using OurScreen to bring about increased showings. The story of Northern Soul the film, both on screen and off, is the story of a refusal to let black soul music and its unique place in Northern (and indeed, British) culture die. Constantine kept the faith through thick and thin, and thank the heavens she did.