‘Sing Street’ is an Infectious Pop Song in Movie Form

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With the two features Once and Begin Again, writer-director John Carney has cornered the market on original films that intertwine the filmmaker’s original music with tales of romance. Carney’s latest feature Sing Street adds a personal twist on the filmmaker’s formula, with a deeply personal tale of self-discovery through artistic expression in the story of a young man starting a band with his fellow schoolmates in 1985 Dublin. Sing Street is a lovely movie with no shortage of charms from its young cast complete with a snap in its step in its musical homage to the pop of the ‘80s.

Ferdia Walsh-Peelo gives a breakout performance as Conor, a young man who half-assedly strums a guitar in his room while his parents Robert (Aidan Gillen) and Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy) engage in their latest round of marital discord. His cash-strapped family is a moment of transition, forcing Conor to attend a Christian school called Synge Street. Going from a relatively comfortable middle class life to the rough edges of Irish poverty leaves the teenager an outcast at his new school, receiving cruel taunts from schoolyard bullies as well as the school’s headmaster Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley). Throughout all his troubles, he still sits with his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) to keep up with Top of the Pops, staring in awe at the music videos of Duran Duran.

Things get slightly better for Conor once he lays eyes upon Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a local girl who is one year older. She claims her aspirations are to model and sees herself moving to London in the immediate future. Desperate to win her over, Conor asks her to appear in the music video of his band. Of course, Conor isn’t in a band yet. With the help of his schoolmate Darren (Ben Carolan), Conor assembles a ragtag group (played by Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka, Connor Hamilton, and Karl Rice) for his new band Sing Street. They write songs and create music videos for their compositions. All of these teens want to rush into the world of adulthood, though they haven’t fully discovered themselves yet.

Sing Street works so well for the way it seamlessly blends an emotionally honest love story, a coming-of-age tale, and its musical homage to ‘80s music. The romance between Conor and Raphina is culled from so many high school trysts, with him overeager for affection and she with her sights set to tomorrow, even going as far as to date older men thinking it’ll provide a quicker route to where she wants to be. They flirt and feud at varying times, but build a solid connection by better understanding themselves through the art they create together.

A lot of the fun that comes from watching Sing Street is the honesty to its portrayal of young people discovering themselves through art. Conor is constantly changing his appearance based upon the latest batch of records his brother has bestowed upon him, and the band’s music also evolves to reflect their influences. Later, Raphina gives Conor the moniker of Cosmo, adding a definitive touch his constantly changing new persona. The songs, which aren’t all my cup of tea, range in influences from The Cure to The Jam.

This is a very Irish film, with Carney injecting his story with a strong critique of the faltering Irish institutions, namely the relationship between the schools and the Catholic Church. The headmaster of Synge Street is cruel and petty, willing to implement physical abuse over the slightest infractions. All the other priests seem indifferent to the varied plights of the students, often overlooking fights on the schoolyard. Even the implosion of the nuclear family, which they’ve been repeatedly told by the church is the societal ideal, crumbles around Conor and his siblings. Through all that Irish resentment and Catholic guilt lies salvation through creation, art as a rejection of failed systems.

There are a few minor quibbles about Sing Street – the ending is a bit too neat, for example – but nothing that diminishes the ample charms of John Carney’s film. It’s impossible not to succumb to this funny, sharp, and emotionally honest film. Fans of ‘80s music will likely be enamored with the infectious pop beats of the youthful band, and those not too keen on ‘80s music will be swept up in the film’s loveable story. Sing Street is a hit has a little something of everything to help satisfy everyone.

  • Sing Street


A charming blend of musical, romance, and coming-of-age story, it’s impossible not to be swept up in the charms of Sing Street.

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