Sing Street is a beautiful synthesised ode to 80s Dublin and brotherhood from writer/director/Dubliner John Carney (the man behind Once and Begin Again).
When Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) overcomes his temporary hypnosis by beauty after encountering Raphina (Lucy Boynton) he bumbles through a conversation with her that ends with a request; would she be in his band’s music video? After she says yes, the problem is to form a band with his new schoolmates and learn how to make some great music. Guided by his older brother and musical ‘Obi Wan’ Brendan (Jack Reynor), he and friends Eamon (Mark McKenna), Darren (Ben Carolan), and Ngig (Percy Chamburuka) to name a few, form their identity from a musical collage of The Cure, Depeche Mode and Duran Duran.
Carney’s Sing Street has a vivaciousness that his other toe -tapping modern musicals can’t realise. “Going back to the well” as they say is just sublime. 1980s economically challenged Dublin has all those echoes of its spiritual sister state New Jersey; looking across the water from suburbia and the U.K stands in for New York as a Mecca of cultural change and modernism.
Carney’s Sing Street makes some unique choices with the teen experience. There seem to be so many opportunities for villainy that collapsed and myopic teen worldview; diabolical and abusive Catholic headmasters, parental relationship on the rocks and constant fighting and sadistic bullies. Conor (Walsh-Peelo) has foresight to evade the headmasters and not be beaten; embraces bullies with empathy; and largely thanks to his brother, realises the flawed humanity of his parents. They’re not sacred stoic figureheads, they’re sad, struggling unkempt people. Carney unobtrusively flashes social commentary that sympathises with the pressures of religious influence on young people.
Walsh-Peelo does a great job carrying the film with confidence, and manages to portray with sweetness that completely specific “world ending” thirst for love and validation. Mark McKenna’s musical genius Eamon is the one-man band and supportive best friend that you always wished you had. Ben Carolan’s Darren is the perfect, fast-talking diminutive hustler. Lucy Boynton’s Raphina is ‘the girl.’ Boynton is so knee weakeningly beautiful; but at the same time has an irrepressible light in the face of hardship. Reynor’s Brendan, despite one of the worst wigs of all time, radiates confidence, wisdom, and cool. He’s that Phillip Seymour Hoffman from Almost Famous kind of guy that just never left home.
Carney really blindsided me with just how perfectly he realises the way that a younger brother idolises their older brother. As Conor (Walsh-Peelo) is a sponge to Brendan’s (Reynor) view of the world you can’t help but pour over the formative years in your own life and reminisce. As I’m sitting here typing about the mechanisms of Carney’s work, I’m drawn back to a time where my brother’s curriculum of must sees films became the roadmap for my view of the movie world. It’s in those hundreds of hours of misspent youth (debatable) you realise that you probably need to call your brother and thank him.
Sing Street has the hair of the 80s, but a timeless heart.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: John Carney
Written by: John Carney
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo … Conor
Aidan Gillen … Robert Lalor
Maria Doyle Kennedy … Penny
Jack Reynor … Brendan
Kelly Thornton … Ann
Ian Kenny … Barry
Ben Carolan … Darren
Percy Chamburuka … Ngig
Mark McKenna … Eamon
Don Wycherley … Brother Baxter
Des Keogh … Brother Barnabas
Lucy Boynton … Raphina