Film Review: Spike Island [LFF 2012]

on Thursday, October 11, 2012
'Spike Island' (UK Release: TBC) // Words: Saam Das

27 May 1990. Spike Island, Widnes. The setting for a seminal outdoor concert by The Stone Roses, and for five young Manchester lads who go on an emotional and literal journey to attend that very concert. Premiering for the first time anywhere in the world at the 56th BFI London Film Festival tonight, 'Spike Island' is a feature steeped in a loving nostalgia and sure to strike a chord with any musical devotee.

Many a music fan of a certain age will have nostalgia for the early 90s "baggy" music scene, born in Manchester. 'Spike Island' is the latest on-screen attempt to capture the vibe of that era, following the likes of Michael Winterbottom's madcap '24 Hour Party People'. Indeed, 'Spike Island' is written by Chris Coghill, who portrayed Bez of The Happy Mondays in the latter.

The film follows five schoolboys who don't think much of school but have a love for music - particularly for The Stone Roses. The lads see their future in their own band Shadowcaster, led by the savvy Tits (Elliot Tittensor). The plan is to make it to Spike Island, meet The Stone Roses, hand them their demo, and they'll be sorted.

They're willing to drop everything. For a band. But not just a band. Their favourite band. The road is a difficult one - family issues, girls (most notably, Emilia Clarke of 'Game Of Thrones' fame), and their lack of tickets threaten their dream. But if music is all-consuming then perhaps friendship is all-powerful, as the group pull out all the stops to make it to Spike Island and make their own future.

'Spike Island' revels in its period setting, perfectly transporting us to 1990, amid carefully placed moments of archive footage and an understandably Stone Roses-heavy soundtrack. Composer Ilan Eshkeri and Ash's Tim Wheeler also contribute, while Coldplay act as producers - director Mat Whitecross having helmed several of their videos.

The humour is well played, with pot-shots at The Fall and simple yet hilarious moments of dialogue such as: "What are you theiving Tampax for anyway?" "I thought they were individually wrapped biscuits." 'Spike Island' doesn't do quite as well on the emotional drama, aside from the superbly acted familial relationship between Tits and his mum (Lesley Manville) and ill father (Steve Evets, a former member of the aforementioned band The Fall).

The Stone Roses returned live earlier this year. How long their resurrection lasts is unpredictable. Their legacy however is clear, and the sentimentality of 'Spike Island' reflects a generation of crazed music lovers. The film never quite reaches the emotional heights it perhaps aims for but is a capable document of the traumatic world of teenage friendship.


'Spike Island' premieres this evening at the 56th BFI London Festival. For more info, screenings and tickets, visit

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