Review: 'Spike Island'

Ruth Jeffery makes her Raccoon debut and gives a review of recent Roses-based drama Spike Island.

Warning: Below, a Mancunian talks about a Manchester-based film. Strap on your Kangol bucket hats…


If you like music or films, or films about music then there’s a high chance of you loving Spike Island. If, like me, you’re a Stone Roses geek then not seeing this film would be a criminal act on your part. It follows Made of Stone as yet another nod to Ian Brown & co and this time is an independent drama about one of their most famous gigs.

The film follows a group of teenagers in Manchester trying desperately to get to a Roses gig on Spike Island in May 1990. In a band of their own and mad to see their idols on stage, they try every trick in the book to get in, resulting in some really funny moments.

Full of Mancunian swagger and reverberating with the Stone Roses’ music, it’s a film that mixes coming of age tenderness with big guitar riffs- and does it well. Even though the Roses are only seen for a few moments, their image and music is stamped on every scene and the Manchester depicted is the pill-popping, heady town belonging to them in the 90s.

The main character is ‘Tits’, an Ian Brown-wannabe whose father is terminally ill and for whom the future stretches no further than the gig. He is played superbly by Elliot Tittensor (Karl Gallagher in Channel 4’s Shameless), who proves that he has enough depth to carry a feature-length film. The lads he gets into shenanigans with are ‘Dodge’, obsessed with recording songs; ‘Penfold’ whose father wants him to join the army; and ‘Zippy’ and ‘Little Gaz’, who are interchangeably similar. Together the group are irrepressible, creating havoc with cans of paint just like the Roses famously did, nicking stuff from Manchester landmark Afflecks Palace and generally strutting through the ginnels like they own the city.

Tits’ love interest Sally (cue ‘Sally Cinnamon and some back-seat-of-the-bus admiration) is played by Game Of Thrones’ ethereal Emilia Clarke, who has rather interestingly swapped bright blonde hair and baby dragons for dark brown curls and a Manc accent. Her main contribution seems to be walking in slow motion and tossing her new hair, and when it transpires that she looks good in dungarees and loves the Stone Roses, the lads get busy trying to impress her.

Despite some brilliant performances by a great young cast, the biggest impression is made by the Roses themselves. Featuring in every scene on posters and t-shirts, their image is echoed in the five young fans and their music throbs through the film. My first thought as I walked out of the cinema was ‘I forgot how much I love ‘Bye bye Badman’’ followed by ‘Fuck, I Am The Resurrection was good live!’. Leading me to head home and listen to the first album.

If you’re not a Stone Roses fan though, do not fear. There are plenty of laughs and touching moments that do stand apart from the music, and the story is cleverly woven around the gig so although it is the film’s anchor, it doesn’t completely overshadow the characters. The storyline about Tits’ Dad is very well done and never strays into the crass or cheesy. Even though this is a coming of age-type piece, there is nothing childish, boring or annoying about their journey.

I hate to use the words ‘poignant’ and ‘moving’, but be warned because I’m about to:

The film was both poignant and moving, starting with mayhem and ending with reflection. If you want to see a good British film this summer, then ‘This is the One’.

9/10 (Only because I would never give 10 on principle)


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