Hull is not often hailed as the starting point for anything, let alone groundbreaking British movies. Yet this comedy's origins lie in a drama workshop in that very city. From there it went to London's glittery West End as a very successful play, before then crossing the Atlantic for a sell-out run in Atlanta, Georgia. Now it's finally become the latest oddball Brit outing on the big screen, albeit in a slightly altered form.
It starts in a utilitarian British university in the '70s - all flares, dodgy haircuts and wear-five-days-in-a-row underwear. Five pals are introduced - self-assured Scott (Adrian Lester), his girlfriend, promising art student Bryony (Amy Robbins); likeable hippy Keith (Daniel Ryan); style-free Angela (Clare Cathcart); and good-natured Tim (Billy Carter). It is the eve of the group's first big gig, supporting the legendary Lindisfarne, and the even more legendary Tony Blackburn. Fame beckons and the future looks bright. Of course, it all then goes horribly wrong, and the film picks up the group's lives in both the '80s and the '90s.
Their tangled lives develop humorously, tragically, but always watchably. The cast are extremely likeable and grow older gracefully without resorting to unrealistic wigs and make-up. What binds them is the singing, but their habit of bursting into Motown and '70s classics at moments of tension doesn't always come off. Yet an impromptu concert on a roof goes down a storm, while a rehearsal at a wedding is the chance for a more meaningful exchange; simultaneously awkwardly funny and moving.
There are also moments of classic comedy as well. Tim becomes the daredevil presenter of a top children's TV programme and then finds himself roped into recreating that loveable, yet practical, role off-screen. Keith is attracted to a Womble costume and Bryony conducts a painfully awful romance, much to the group's disgust, with her ex-tutor, slaphead Gavin.
Up On The Roof is worth watching, even if only to catch the cast on their way to greater things. Adrian Lester has already been cast opposite Emma Thompson and John Travolta in Primary Colors. On this evidence, his friends will not be far behind.
A refreshing British comedy, with belly-wrenching laughs, a truly talented cast making impressive screen debuts and some sparkling dialogue. But a few too many songs slow down the action.