In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
This is the mid eighties and everybody is moving to the beat of Pop music as the brand-new concept of music videos appears on television for the first time. On the other hand, in Dublin, Conor, a teenager with a sensitive heart, is trying to deal with a tense family relationship, reconnect with his older brother, and deal with the hostile environment of his new public school - but then, one day, he sees her - tall, with long chestnut hair, a buttery complexion and big, blue eyes - an enigmatically beautiful girl standing in front of the gate of his school indolently observing people passing by. Who is she and how could a boy ever get noticed by such a distant girl? Easy. He would form a band. With every lyric Conor writes, the gap narrows, and with every song he plays, her heart fills with affection. In a sea of opportunities ahead of them, what does the future hold for a love like this? Written by
I'm a sucker for movies about musicians, and John Carney has already given us Once (2007) and Begin Again (2013). Now he delights once more with Sing Street, a tale told with humor, drama, and some pretty catchy songs, all set in the backdrop of 1980's Dublin.
Yes, Sing Street is set in the 80's so it undeniably lends itself to comic relief as these schoolboys are forced to navigate through hair, makeup, clothing and music video choices along their artistic journey. We get plenty of laughs as we watch them try to forge an identity and look like bona-fide rock stars in this crazy MTV generation. And for good measure, they insert the obligatory Phil Collins joke in the mix.
There is quite a deal of drama as well. We see bullying in an all-boys school, dysfunctional families, the economic hardships of Ireland in the 80's and young people's wish to break out of societal malaise and seek their fortunes elsewhere. I haven't lived in Ireland but the desire to pack your bags and start over in another place is a universal one. Audiences in every continent can relate to that.
The cast is solid and I was very impressed with the leads, especially Ferdia Walsh-Peelo who plays Connor. He can be charming, kind, insecure but out-of-nowhere gutsy which is an accurate depiction of a blossoming musician. After the first hour I began to be doubtful of the character of Connor's brother Brendan for seeming to be too wise for his age, but by the end of the film it all made sense, and Jack Reynor was a fine choice for that role. Lucy Boynton (Raphine) is great as the love interest and mysterious but troubled muse; she packs an emotional performance and probably looks the most natural in 80's fashion, although she didn't quite convince me as a 16 year-old and it wasn't because of all the excess hair and makeup. On the other hand Mr. Walsh-Peelo (Connor) was only 15 when the movie was shot and he's got that boyish appearance. Finally Mark McKenna (Eamon) has such an uncanny resemblance to Julian Lennon it's scary! But a good actor too.
As far as concerns I had only a few major ones but they didn't detract from the enjoyment of the film. First is that the story moves very quickly in the first 30 minutes or so, then takes the foot off the pedal for the remainder. And second, it's a little unrealistic that these kids can write quality songs right out of the blocks. It would have been fun to hear a real stinker when they're starting out. I'm a musician and believe me, our first attempts are pretty bad. That's true even for the all-time best.
There were a few other minor things but they're not worth mentioning. This is a great story, it got all the laughs, cheers and tears in the right places and I would recommend it to everyone, especially those who want to express themselves through art and aspire to greatness. Dream big, all you adolescents. A big thanks to John Carney et al for reminding us of that and making a quality film.
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