‘Sing Street’ Scores Another Musical Win for ‘Once’ Director
Writer/director John Carney is no stranger to combining a genuine story of love and music. In fact, after his beautifully crafted 2007 film, Once captured the hearts with its down-to-earth storytelling, it was obvious he had a knack for this uplifting combination. His latest film, Sing Street too hits all the right notes.
Set in 1985 inner-city Dublin, young Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is removed from his private school by his family to ease their financial situation. Like any typical new kid in school, Conor is immediately thrusted into the antagonistic environment. You have your stereotypical bully, painting a target of him from day one and a stickler school principal (Don Wycherly), who continuously gives Conor a hard time for not following dress code. He’s not as treacherous as say Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter, albeit still a thorn in Conor’s side throughout the term.
One day, Conor works up the courage to speak with the slightly older and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton) about joining his Futurist band as their music video model. The only problem is there’s no band – well, yet. Gathering the local misfits including an aspriring young entrepreneur (Ben Carolan), a multi-instrument player (Mark McKenna) and a handful of other, they form Sing Street. That plays on the institution, Synge Street CBS where Conor goes to school as did director Carney.
Initially, Conor can’t sing worth a lick as Raphina tests him by singing a-ha’s “Take on Me,” which he humorously botched and doesn’t even know the words to. Walsh-Peelo himself is a soprano in real life and the first go-arounds at failing to bringing band into harmony play beat for beat, but compensate with the rich comedic performances. And with Sing Street being his acting debut, you would hardly know the difference
What Carney’s Sing Street excels at best is its ability to capture the pitch-perfect music scene of 1985 with a cliché narrative that never comes across as tiresome. From start to finish, if you grew up in the 80s or adore nostalgic music, then Sing Street knows exactly where to hit home. A-ha is just the tip of the iceberg of the soundtrack. Loaded with Duran Duran, The Cure, Hall & Oates and The Jam, there’s nothing not to love about Sing Street. Better yet, you’ll be tapping your feet to song know like the back of your hand and new ones from the film’s band. The film also throws in references to Phil Collins and Back to the Future that should rise a few chuckles.
Carney’s screenplay not only does a convincing job at capturing the 80s, but tackles various other themes including young love, coming-of-age and dysfunctional family dynamics. The chemistry between Walsh-Peelo and Boynton is spot-on and while it starts with an innocent flirtation through music, you truly feel for the characters by the end. It’s the small moments in the script that truly stand out, particular the aforementioned first time they meet. Carney’s handled the relationship issues equally as well in his previous films, Once and Begin Again. Here it’s an even more accessible love letter to finding love through music than anything he’s done before.
While dealing with the band, Conor is forced to confront the problems of his dysfunctional family and his stoner brother (Jack Reynor), which might as well be his rock in the household. Games of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Jupiter Ascending) are Conor’s at-odds parents. The marital problems aren’t the film’s cornerstone, but the little they’re both in the film, it’s satisfying chemistry. Reynor’s also fine as the big brother, practically on the sidelines giving advice with Conor and Sing Street heeding it and ultimately improving over time.
Sing Street stays true to its independent roots, but emerges a more confident and mainstream than either of Carney’s other two films, Once and Begin Again. It’s clear that after three films, Carney has the passion and drive to express an rich, honest story wrapped up in music. In fact, it’s his most charming and delightful film to date.
By the end of the film, there is not just one earned triumph, but many that allow Sing Street to become one of the most uplifting, joyous times in the theater in 2016.