Film Review: ‘Spike Island’


It would seem that 2013 is shaping up to be the true second coming of legendary Manchurian outfit The Stone Roses. Following triumphant reunion gigs and an equally lauded documentary, Made of Stone, into the mix comes Roses-tinged teen tribute-cum-standalone rites of passage tale Spike Island (2012). It’s the summer of 1990 and the streets are filled with the sights and sounds of The Stone Roses, in both an aural and visual sense (the band’s Jackson Pollock-inspired, signature abstract paint splashes imaginatively invade the frame). Thus, anticipation is naturally high for six school chums on the cusp of adulthood.

Not only are the boys harbouring plans for pop world domination with their own band, Shadowcaster, but their musical heroes The Stone Roses have a huge outdoor gig planned at Spike Island. The gang are eager to get tickets, although frontman ‘Tits’ is in a quandary about making the date, owing to the fact that his cancer-stricken father is incredibly ill. With his older brother back in town offering the promise of a guest list, Tits and his gang press on with their quest, regardless. While the makers strive for authenticity throughout (writer/co-star Chris Coghill has clearly been exposed to the type of world the characters inhabit), Spike Island struggles at times to escape its low budget, BBC Three teen drama aesthetic.

Director Mat Whitecross does well with a limited budget (the CGI’d aerial shots of the titular gig are pretty impressive) but that dizzying verve and energy he brought to his debut feature Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is absent here. All the usual coming of age tropes are present and correct (sibling and parental clashes, awkward teen love triangles, valuable life lessons learnt) but it’s nothing we haven’t seen numerous times before. Overall the performances are decent. Looking for Eric’s Steve Evets is superb as Tits’ deteriorating father, and he dominates the brief scenes he’s in. The younger cast are pretty strong, too, with Game of Thrones star Emilia Clark contributing a nicely underplayed turn as the potential lover interest.

The biggest shame is that the generous number of Roses tracks in the film are rarely used effectively, failing to really breathe life or bring context into the scenes in which they play. Spike Island is a sometimes engaging look at the dreams of youth (a nice transcendental moment sees Tits and his band making beautiful music inside their rundown rehearsal shed) but given that it’s being released so soon after Shane Meadows’ Made of Stone – following a previous stint on the schedule of the now defunct Revolver Entertainment – serves simply as a reminder that the definitive fan film to is already out there.

Adam Lowes