Director: John Carney
Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Aiden Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jack Reynor and Lucy Boynton
Running Time: 106 minutes
Release Date: March 18th
Writer/director John Carney’s first attempt at recapturing the magic of his breakout hit Once, 2014’s Begin Again, failed to set the world alight. There were a couple of reasons for this, the slightly naff songs, Adam Levine of Maroon Five and his constantly changing facial hair. The key problem with that film was pretty basic; it was too artificial to really charm despite the best efforts of its leads Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley. In his latest film, Sing Street, Carney returns back to his native Dublin to create a charming coming of age story that doesn’t offer that much in the way of surprises but offers plenty of heart.
It is the mid-80s, and the troubled economic times have forced Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) to move from his posh school to a Christian Brother school on Synge Street. After chalking up the nerve to talk to the good-looking but rather sullen Raphina (Lucy Boynton) who hangs out outside the school, he decides to start a band in order to impress her, and to allow the aspiring model to appear in their videos. After setting up the band, and receiving a music education from his stoner college dropout older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), Conor, re-christened Cosmo, and his band mates quickly develop a repertoire to play at the school dance but his growing relationship with Raphina is threatened by her desire to uproot to London to obtain her modelling dreams.
Given its period setting, it is not surprising that Sing Street is full of nostalgia, but rather than coming across as an ’80s throwback, Sing Street makes it much more universal by incorporating that very teenage idea of imitating the styles and fashions of musicians they admire. Throughout the film Cosmo takes on the image of the various singers that his brother has introduced him to, from the goth of Robert Smith, to the slick styling’s of Spandau Ballet, though fortunately it seems he was never introduced to the dungarees of Too-Rye-Ay era Dexys Midnight Runners. This only adds to its overall charm and helps make to teenage protagonists feel more authentic and more relatable to a more contemporary audience.
In fact so strong is this feeling in the scenes involving the band that it is almost a disappointment when the shifts its focus to the relationship between Cosmo and Raphina. While Walsh-Peelo and Boynton work well together and overall their scenes together come across as sweet and at times very touching, the trouble is that Raphina is not that well written a character to give their story the emotional heft it needs. Far more involving is the sibling relationship between Cosmo and Brendan, which is genuinely touching and driven by the older Brendan’s regrets about not taking the risks to live his own dreams when he was Cosmo’s age and his desire he doesn’t do the same.
Make no mistake; Sing Street is ultimately a crowd pleaser, right up to its romantic but extremely far-fetched ending. The fact is that this is such a joyful and uplifting experience that such an ending isn’t a problem. In fact, it oozes pure charm and thanks to an incredibly catchy soundtrack it would take a cynic of the highest order not to leave the cinema with a spring in their step.