Who is this film for? That’s a question I found myself asking during artist and film-maker Matt Hulse’s ramshackle documentary. Aged 11, in the late 70s, Hulse formed a band called the Hippies with his older brother Toby, then 12, and sister Polly, then 8. He played drums – or rather chopsticks on cardboard boxes. In the promotional material for the film, the Hippies are described as Britain’s youngest post-punk band. But there’s no evidence here that they played gigs bigger than their mum’s front room, like hundreds of kids up and down the country. That said their songs – such as Rabies (“Rabies is a killer!”) – do have bundles of rough charm.
Sound for the Future is a real mishmash of a film, part docudrama with animated bits, plus tap dancing and spoken word performances by Hulse. He also reconstructs scenes from his childhood, collaborating with a group of bemused looking young actors from a Glasgow theatre workshop playing the Hulse siblings.
In places, it is painful to watch Hulse letting rip the undigested pain of his childhood. The story that emerges is that, following their parents’ divorce, the Hulse siblings shuttled between two houses. They spent term time with their dad and his new wife, and school holidays with mum Ruth who led a bohemian life in Cambridge with a gay lodger (in the 70s!) and copies of Spare Rib on the coffee table. Hulse still seems angry at his brother Toby for disbanding the Hippies – and pointedly Toby does not appear here.
Hulse puts us knee-deep in his raw emotion, revealing that he has suffered with addictions and depression, and he performs with his childhood teddy bear on stage in a pub on his 50th birthday. Is this film as therapy? Meanly, perhaps, at times I did wonder what’s in it for the rest of us.