Sing Street (2016) / Drama-Musical
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements including strong language and some bullying behavior, a suggestive image, drug material and teen smoking
Running Time: 106 min.
Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Mark McKenna, Aidan Gillen, Don Wycherley, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Ben Carolan, Percy Chamburuka, Conor Hamilton, Karl Rice, Ian Kenny
Director: John Carney
Screenplay: John Carney
Review published April 13, 2016
Set in Dublin in 1985, teenage dreamer Conor (Walsh-Peelo) is a new student in a Christian Brothers school that writer-director John Carney also attended during the same year, Synge Street, whose hard-knocks with bullies and over-petulant Catholic headmasters equally as turbulent as his home life with his parents who are struggling with a lack of finances and a drift apart in their relationship. Conor soon meets slightly older local beauty Raphina (Boynton, Ballet Shoes), who wants to pursue a modeling career in London, and he asks her if she'd like to be in his band's music video. The problem? There is no band. In order to win Raphina, he's going to have to put the music where his mouth is and put one together, so he puts the word out, gets a group (a la New Romantic and synthpop bands like Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, The Cure, and Spandau Ballet) in to make the music based on his lyrics (using Raphina as his muse) and with him as the front-man, and soon, Sing Street is born.
John Carney, director of the music-based dramas Once and Begin Again, continues his string with Sing Street, which further explores the world of musicians and the power that music can play in the lives of those who create it and listen to it. Returning to his native Ireland, this one's more of a seriocomic crowd-pleaser than his prior efforts, but an effective one, dabbling with being a musical in its tone without actually crossing the line and becoming one, save for one daydream sequence in which it poignantly reveals how music is often seen by the artists that perform it as a means to make their wishes come true.
As with all of Carney's movies, there's also a love angle at the core, though this one directly ties in with a main theme of the movie, which is that the impetus for many young teenage boys to start a rock band is specifically so they can meet girls. Carney excels when it comes to music selection, and the soundtrack of both classic and catchy, authentic-feeling original songs from Scottish sophisti-pop songwriter Gary Clark feed very well into the film's overall vibe in a way that enhances the effect of the story. Perhaps the original songs might even be too good for such a novice band, as nearly every one of their efforts could have climbed the pop charts. Nevertheless, Carney continues to get a great use of locales for his outdoor video-shoot scenes, and the audio arrangements are about as perfect as can be to get you grooving in your seat to the beat.
Nicely cast with a troupe of very likeable and apt actors, many of whom have never acted before, Sing Street may not have the deep-seated emotional resonance of Once or the mainstream star power of Begin Again, but it's a difficult film to dislike, unless you're someone who demands to see something from John Carney that isn't about a bunch of struggling musicians who find love and meaning in their own songs. The look, feel and references of the 1980s also makes this a fun film for those nostalgic for the era of big hair, androgynous performers, and cheesy music videos; the film is every bit as fun as the decade that produced its inspiration.
©2016 Vince Leo