Nice one. Sorted. Madferit.  Yes, you will hear all the ultimate Manc- idioms that were banded about in the nineties during ‘Spike Island’. The film is a sun-drenched [yes, sun in Manchester who knew?] hazy tribute to the summer of 1990 when the North-West of England became the epicentre of musical history, when The Stone Roses reigned supreme and played their iconic gig at Spike Island to thousands to baggy indie fans off their faces on E’s and whizz.

Manc teenagers Tits (Matthew McNulty) and Dodge (Nico Mirallegro) are our Ian Brown/John Squire substitutes, singer and guitarist in a jangly indie band called Shadowcaster. They’re desperate to get to the Roses’s era-defining gig on the titular Cheshire industrial site and personally hand over their demo tape to the Stones – unfortunately a series of troubling issues knocks them back along the way and rather predictably, not only is the gig a defining moment in musical history it also ends up being a seminal moment in each of the boys lives for various other reasons too – making the film a ‘How to’ guide for all coming of age stories.

These guys are on the cusp of adulthood and their bond is held together by the love of the Stone Roses and a dream to be in a band. Their childhood friendships come under strain when girl troubles, sick parents and a lack of cash open their eyes to adulthood. Deep stuff, man.  

Whilst these themes are realistic they somehow seem so clichéd and are only vaguely touched upon making it hard for the story to develop. Essentially it’s like the boys have been given back stories just because director Mat Whitecross and screenwriter Chris Coghill realised the film couldn’t be two hours of teenage lads getting mangled and wearing baggy adidas ensembles. Whilst the film tries to capture a snapshot of a very real trend and time in England’s North West it lacks any true grit or honesty. 

Spike Island

The affably nicknamed ‘Tits’ is the protagonist who holds the lads and consequently the film together.  He is well cast and epitomises the vibe of 90’s Madchester. However, his attempt at a poetic voiceover and role as the long suffering boy from the Red brick estate overcoming the odds and getting the girl –he does this by telling her he’s ‘bananas’ about her, take note fellas…- is at times a little soppy and overlaid. Most cringe reference? : The girl at the centre of the love story is called Sally and so the boys sing Roses track, Sally Cinnamon when she is around.

Undeniably ‘Spike Island’ has the music on its side: slap the closing solo from ‘I Am the Resurrection’ over just about anything, and you’ve got guaranteed uplift. This film is fun – it’s a rose-tinted view of the time when drugs were celebrated and music was dead cool. Seeing the boys living it up at the pub, jamming in the garage and singing in unison to The Stone Roses is endearing. There are comical moments and it would probably be a nice reflective watch for Roses fans/ those who were teens in the nineties and are now waving their youth behind from over the hill.

Spike Island is an easy watch and the young cast do well with their limited plot and constant time specific references. Definitely worth a watch so long as you know that you’re probably not going to take much away with you other than a nice dose of nostalgia, a strong urge to listen to the entire back catalogue of The Stone Roses and a complete working knowledge of Mancunian slang. Top Banana.


About The Author

Emily is from South London and has a degree in English Literature. Emily is a marketing assistant who writes about films and music in her spare time. Horror and grindhouse are her thing - although she will happily watch anything if it means a trip to the cinema.