Sing Street (2016)
Directed by John Carney • Written by John Carney.
With Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor and Aidan Gillen
Dublin, 1985. Conor is a bright 15-year-old boy with a turbulent family life, who starts a band to capture the attention of an enigmatic girl he likes. To add conflict to his raging hormones, he’s bullied at his new school by fellow pupils and tutors. Luckily for him, his impassioned older brother is on hand to guide him through the world of pop music, as he sets his sights on becoming the new Simon Le Bon.
Written and directed by John Carney, Sing Street is a musical-comedy-drama dedicated to “brothers everywhere”,that speaks powerfully about being young and in love, but also about the importance of friendship, originality and the semi-parental responsibility of being an older sibling. Of Carney’s most notable films to date, the other two being Once and Begin Again, this a welcome return to familiar ground as together with the central character, we witness the songwriting evolution of music overlapping with the core central narrative. With Carney’s films, we get an album and a film at the same time.
Making his screen debut in the central role of Conor is Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, whose quiet intelligence could easily be mistaken for shyness. Despite being humiliated in public by the school bully, repeatedly threatened and physically abused by the head of the school, Conor is an inquisitive, good-hearted soul who isn’t afraid to take a plunge. His forward-thinking attitude sets him apart from his peers, and, it also allows him to meet Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a Desperately Seeking Susan type (she even looks like Madonna on the poster) who becomes his muse.
Walsh-Peelo is excellent, playing the aspirational, yet unseasoned teen with a keen understanding. As Raphina, Lucy Boynton encapsulates the embodiment of a beautiful, tortured soul in need of a new path. Conor’s fascination with her gives way to romantic moments that bring sparkle to the sedate surroundings. In the spirit of the classic romantic fairytale, theirs is a relationship we want desperately to succeed.
As Conor’s older brother and mentor, Jack Reynor brings a range of humour, warmth and a touch of that indiscernible essence of ‘happy-sad‘. It’s a big performance, sat in the middle of the film – Conor’s lifeline for doing the right thing between his band and Raphina. In one scene, he reassures Conor by saying – “No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins.”
As we know from his previous work, Carney writes the original songs for his films. With Sing Street, his songs are cleverly adapted to show Conor’s influences; Hall & Oates, The Cure and Duran Duran, to name just a few. It’s all of utterly charming, inspired and funny, especially when the band decide to turn their first song, The Riddle of the Model, into a music video complete with thrown-together wardrobe overhaul, heavy make-up and borrowed New Romantic stylings.
By the end, don’t be surprised to find yourself chasing down people in the street to recommend Sing Street to. It is an utter delight, poured out entirely from the heart and sprinkled with magic. It’ll make you want to laugh, cry and sing-along at the same time. 5/5