I can’t fault director John Carney for sticking with his trademark formula; he is, after all, batting 1,000 with “Once” and “Begin Again.” “Sing Street” adds to his holy trinity of exemplary music themed tales.
This musical coming of age film is set in Ireland in the 1980s. Our hero is 15 year old schoolboy Conor / Cosmo (newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who, trying to escape an unhappy home environment and coping with being the new kid at his private Catholic school, forms a rag-tag rock band to attempt to impress a wayward wannabe model (Lucy Boynton). The ridiculously talented young cast (including Mark McKenna, Ben Carolan, and a standout star-making performance from Jack Reynor as the wise older brother) is immensely likeable, and the catchy original songs will leave you tapping your feet long after you leave the theater.
Underscored with themes of friendship and brotherly love, the movie’s main focus is on the pure, unrivaled joy of creating art. If you are a musician or a fan of music, this is an absolute must-see (this movie is a genuine pleasure for creative types and will undoubtedly be savored even by those who aren’t). As the boys scribble lyrics in pencil and write their own songs (or film their own hilarious new wave music videos), it reminds us to always follow our dreams and continuously forge ahead with our personal artistic expression, even in the face of failure.
As with all of writer/director Carney’s best films, “Sing Street” not only celebrates music (accompanied by a tremendous original and classic 1980s era soundtrack) but shows a very deep understanding of the importance of music in ordinary people’s lives. Music can serve as the best type of therapy to help us through sadness and tough times, liberating us from the worst the world has to offer. Music brings us love and wonder and happiness and allows us to escape (there’s a phenomenal fantasy sequence in the film that I didn’t want to see end)! Most of all, this movie is a love letter to youthful creative exuberance, artistic expression and indestructible imagination.
I loved this movie so much and I hope you’ll seek it out. It’s funny, it’s touching, it’s wistful, and it’s fantastic.
“Sing Street” is about Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a teenager growing up in a recession-stricken Dublin during the eighties. The love for music he shares with his older brother provides an escape for both of them from parents (Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy) who constantly fight, and a way for him to deal with his own problems at school (bullies and a strict and overbearing Catholic school headmaster). Heavily influenced by new wave bands like Duran Duran and The Cure and movies like “Back to the Future,” Conor puts together a band of his schoolmates and starts shooting music videos starring Raphina (Lucy Boynton), the aspiring model who lives across the street. His band gives him purpose. It is his music, not his problems, that define Conor.
No filmmaker better understands the power of music to uplift, attract, inspire, or redeem better than Carney. No director has been better able to communicate that power through film. Even people like me (I am not huge music fan) get it after watching a John Carney movie. In “Sing Street,” the characters once again find purpose in themselves and in each other through their art. Music provides the driving force for their lives, their attraction to and love for one another. And at its core, “Sing Street” is about that love – romantic love, brotherly love, and love between friends – that forms the beating heart and soul of the movie. It’s both joyous and profoundly touching.
“Sing Street” is a worthy successor to “Begin Again” and features songs that are even catchier than those in its predecessor (I still can’t get “Drive it Like You Stole It” out of my head, and it’s been almost three months since I saw the movie). While all of the actors do fine jobs, Jack Reynor is an absolute standout as Conor’s brother, Brendan. You read it here first: this guy is going to be one of our next big breakout stars.
I enthusiastically recommend you see “Sing Street” as soon as you can. If you have a pulse, you’ll love it.