Forty years after punk rock exploded on the UK scene, many listeners have lost the visceral sources of its creation. Itâ€™s surface style rejected the excesses of mainstream rock, but deeper anti-establishment and nihilistic currents were rooted in societal ills that dwarfed the bombast of popular entertainment. The clothing and hairstyles provided tribal badges, but it was the economic brutality of a mid-70s recession, crippling unemployment and the specter of Thatcherism that bound the scene together in hopelessness, anger and idealism. Itâ€™s in this milieu that Derrick Borteâ€™s film is set, with music, politics and social upheaval providing the backdrop to a coming-of-age story.
While the Ramones and Sex Pistols lit the fuses of a thousand bands, the wider punk rock scene lit the fuses of a million personal awakenings. One such fuse is attached to the filmâ€™s teenage protagonist, Shay, whoâ€™s estranged mother, overworked father and young sister require him to quickly outgrow his childhood. A cassette of the Clash and a serendipitous meeting with 15-year-old punk rocker Vivian open Shayâ€™s eyes to a world beyond his working class suburb, a wide open and often contradictory world of skinheads and progressives, police riots and squats, love and preternatural maturity. All of that might be enough to permanently bend a teenagerâ€™s trajectory, but a chance encounter with Joe Strummer, and the unlikely friendship they form, proves an even bigger catalyst.
The filmâ€™s music scenes – a club date, a rehearsal and a concert – will remind you why the Clash was called â€œthe only band that matters.â€ More importantly, theyâ€™ll will remind you that the right music at the right time can utterly liberate and completely transform a life. The soundtrack features music by the Clash, Stranglers, Buzzcocks, 101ers, Stiff Little Fingers and Toots & The Maytals, and playing the role of Joe Strummer, actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers gives passionate performances of â€œClash City Rockers,â€ â€œWhite Riotâ€ and â€œClampdown.â€ Shayâ€™s coming-of-age story is one weâ€™ve seen before, but set in the transitional late-70s, it will take older viewers back, and give younger viewers a taste of the times. [Â©2016 Hyperbolium]