Ok, I'm probably rating this far higher than it deserves I know. But you know what, I vote films on two levels; on the one hand there's critical overview and on the other there's just sheer enjoyment, with a little bit of added sentimentality too. Spike Island, and the reason I'm rating it as I am, is definitely down to the latter.
The coming of age story is simple; a bunch of Mancunian scallies and wannabe rockstars attempt to gain entry to their idols, The Stone Roses, now legendary but equally shit gig at the Widnes chemical hinterland Spike Island in May 1990. And that's it.
The cast includes familiar faces like Shameless star Elliot Tittensor as the appropriately named Tits, star of The Village Nico Mirallegro, Game of Thrones Emilia Clarke (near unrecognisable without the white hair and dragons...and with her kit on!) Matthew McNulty, Chris Coghill (who also wrote the film) Lesley Manville, Steve Evets, Michael Socha, Philip Jackson, Trollied's Nick Blood, Danny Cunnigham and Paul Popplewell - who had previously played The Ryders in 24 Hour Party People, alongside Coghill's Bez - and a blink and you'll miss her cameo from the divine Jodie Whittaker as a petrol station cashier in Wigan. Believe me, if the likes of Jodie Whittaker lived up the road from me in Wigan I'd be there all the fucking time!
This is a slice of life I'm all too familiar with - especially being wedged inbetween the two giants Manchester and Liverpool, not a million miles away from Widnes. I was a little too young to be totally mad fer it in 1990 (I was more like the little junior baggies who rate the band Shadowcastre here) so I can't admit to schlepping up to Spike Island. But I knew Spike Island, I still do. It isn't just the association it has now thanks to the Stone Roses. Hell, one of my first girlfriends was from stinky Widnes! The little nostalgic touches like seeing GM buses again really struck a chord with me. And I definitely recall our class at school shouting 'Hammer time!' after the teacher screamed 'Stop' at us, just like the main characters do here!
Directed by Mat Whitecross and written by Chris Coghill, this is Coghill's second cinematic attempt at capturing the Madchester scene, the first being his pill popping ode Weekender. Spike Island is definitely a better movie than that hit and miss but still charming enough effort and for my money, was a genuinely fun and nostalgic way to pass an hour and forty minutes. It's just a shame that this labour of love wasn't allowed a tighter script. It feels like a good enough first draft that just needed a little more attention. But you know what, is it a truly great film? No. Is it enjoyable? Yes. Yes it is.