Sing Street (2016)
For many people, garage bands are synonymous with adolescence and its associated yearnings for identity, independence and fun. The Irish-produced Sing Street (2016) steps into this space with a more complex mixture of ingredients than is usual for such films. Described as a musical comedy, it is also a coming-of-age romance and a period film set against themes of economic recession, family discord and school bullying. Director/writer John Carney prefers to call it a ‘stealth musical’: one that sneaks up on audiences who otherwise might not choose to see a traditional musical. Whatever you call it, this in one of the most engaging and enjoyable films of the year so far.
Set in Dublin during the 1980s, this simple story is told through the eyes of 15 year-old Conor whose quarrelling cash-strapped parents move him from an expensive private school to a local parish school. It is a cultural shock and violence from schoolyard thugs and priests are standard fare for a community where drugs, alcohol and beatings are commonplace. He meets alluring but unattainable 16 year-old Raphina who has left school to become a London model and asks her to join his band (which does not exist). The rest of the film traces the formation of his band called Sing Street and its growth from hopeless wannabes to a credible group of musicians.
Unlike traditional musicals where dialogue slips into song at the slightest provocation, the music works naturally both in and for the film to underscore the humour and pathos of growing up. The first-time romance runs parallel to the evolving music while Conor’s maturing outlook on life helps him rise above the limited opportunities that Dublin offers. The toe-tapping soundtrack includes Duran Duran, Joe Jackson, Hall & Oates, The Jam, The Cure, as well as performances by the Sing Street Band and others.
Sing Street has no pretensions to originality and it relies entirely on genre-familiar ingredients. But it soars well above its class because of outstanding casting and a brilliant soundtrack. Conor and Raphina are immensely attractive and likable personalities and their remarkable acting range lets them glide effortlessly from precocious youth through adolescent angst to unrestrained exuberance. They are the soul of the film and become as one with its music.This is a joyful upbeat film that expresses youth’s unshakeable faith in the power of music and a great little gem from The Emerald Isle.
Director: John Carney
Stars: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton