In a universe where Nick Grimshaw was allowed to co-exist with Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’, there cannot be a person alive who hasn’t once wanted to burst into a radio station and demand a decent song at gunpoint. Denver’s James Kiss certainly has – aged 18 in 1987, he planned to hold local radio station Y108 hostage with a rifle and force them to play The Smiths all night.
In the event Kiss handed himself in in the car park instead, but in Stephen Kijak’s fictional re-enactment Shoplifters Of The World his counterpart, depressed and damaged record shop clerk Dean (Ellar Coltrane), goes all out to harangue the DJ. On the day The Smiths split, he takes a pistol and a case of vinyl into his local rock station and forces DJ Full Metal Mickey (Joe Manganiello) to swap Judas Priest for ‘Vicar In A Tutu’ for one night only. Meanwhile, fellow forlorn Moz fanatic Cleo (Helena Howard) sets out on a night of abandon and self-discovery set to this unexpected city-wide soundtrack alongside three equally confused friends, one of whom – much to the music supervisor’s relief – is helpfully called Sheila.
It comes pre-reviewed. Morrissey, who gave the film his blessing, commented “I laughed, I cried, I ate my own head”, no doubt pleased that, unlike the recent Simpsons tribute to The Smiths, it only portrays him in his most erudite ‘80s prime, in real-life interviews and footage of the band interspersed between scenes. Mark Kermode, on the other hand, claimed it was “EXACTLY the movie that Morrissey deserves” in a tweet with a one-star subtext. In reality it falls between the two; an exploration of directionless outsiderdom that lurches violently between the touching and the ludicrous. Much like a Smiths song, in fact.
On the touching side, Cleo and her crew gatecrash jock house parties and pop clubs in a whirlwind of individual crises: over identity, sexuality, thwarted ambition and unrequited love. Ludicrously, they express around 47 per cent of their existential issues in the medium of Smiths lyrics, as if they’re such deeply devoted fans that their interior monologue is basically ‘Hatful Of Hollow’ in a Colorado accent. Seriously, this film will make the most avid Mozophile feel like a part-timer because they don’t answer the phone saying: “Hello, the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar speaking”. By ‘Strangeways, Here We Come’ even a converted Full Metal Mickey starts doing it, the moral presumably being that within every devil-horning metal riff-lord there is a winsome indie poet with consumption they’re too thick to know about.
Ultimately, the soundtrack’s the star. Shoplifters Of The World is essentially a vehicle for the cinematic setpiece moments that songs such as ‘How Soon Is Now?’, ‘The Queen Is Dead’ and ‘Panic’ were always meant to accompany. The surrounding plot seems almost superfluous, albeit thematically relevant, padding. But some elements do ring true. The non-Smiths fans get seemingly instant sex. Full Metal Mickey knowingly tells Dean: “One day your heroes are gonna grow old… they’re gonna say stupid things that betray the past, in the end they will only disappoint you.” And, crucially, the film pinpoints the many levels on which musical cultures clash, fandom consumes and the shared love of a very special band can mutate into love for each other. Go expecting a cinematic fan letter rather than anything Wilde-worthy and this is one night that will, at the very least, open your ears.
- Director: Stephen Kijak
- Starring: Helena Howard, Ellar Coltrane, Elena Kampouris
- Release date: June 21 (Sky Cinema)