DIR/WRI: John Carney • PRO: Anthony Bregman, John Carney, Kevin Scott Frakes, Christian Grass, Martina Niland, Raj Brinder Singh, Paul Trijbits • DOP: Yaron Orbach • ED: Andrew Marcus, Julian Ulrichs • DES: Alan MacDonald • MUS: Carter Burwell • CAST: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy
John Carney is a director on the rise and, if his latest offering is anything to go by, he isn’t about to plateau any time soon. Warm, delightfully infectious, and, above all else, sincere, Sing Street is the perfect blend of serious and silly that will resonate with anyone of any age. Now and again whimsy threatens to undermine the film’s solid dramatic foundation, but Carney artfully reels in the more fluffy moments when needed to let the quieter moments shine through. What makes this film such a thrill to sit through is that everything works – the acting, the writing, the characters and, of course, the music. It’s a coming-of-age story that all will recognise, just not in the way you’d think.
Taking place in 1980s Dublin, a place and time rife with economic uncertainty and immigration much like today, 15-year-old Conor is facing some growing-pains. His unhappy parents are teetering at the edge of separation, his older brother Brendan (Reynor) seems content to lock himself away in his room and smoke weed forever, and the family’s strained financial situation means Conor is forced to attend the local Christian Brothers on Synge Street, where bullies take the form of both break-yard pests and authoritative priests. In the midst of the chaos, the enigmatic Raphina (Boynton) catches our young hero’s eye and his heart. In a bid to impress the girl of his dreams, Conor harries his fellow classmates into starting a band. With nothing to lose, but with perhaps a lot to gain, ‘Sing Street’ is formed.
Needless to say, the film serves as a trip down nostalgia lane for all those who lived and grew up during the 80s. Jam packed with the musical stylings of the various bands that defined the era, including Duran Duran, A-ha, The Cure, and The Clash, to name but a few, the film’s original songs also succeed in capturing the eclectic style of the time while remaining pieces onto themselves. Brilliant though the musical element of the film undoubtedly is, it also the only element that sometimes rings false. Conor and his friends are amateurs (albeit talented ones) recording music in their mums’ sitting rooms, yet the finished products always sound suspiciously sleek and studio produced. A rougher sound may have added a little bit more to the film’s otherwise genuine tone. Luckily, however, this is a small matter in the wider context of the film.
The heart of the film lies in its actors’ performances. Breakout star Ferdia Walsh-Peelo brings a level of likeability yet vulnerability to the role that engages the audience from the first scene. There is a natural ease to his performance that makes me eager to see how he will evolve in future films. Jack Reynor is ever reliable as the disillusioned would-be-rebel, making what could have been a stereotypical character into an engaging and sympathetic human being. Thankfully, there is no weak link in the cast. Every actor delivers solid, thoughtful performances be they veterans of the industry or newcomers.
The film’s biggest asset is that it knows when to tug on the heartstrings and when to let the goofiness reign. It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s sweet, it can be cruel. It may not be a big blockbuster or a reboot of a famous ’80s franchise, but this is a film as worthy of your hard earned cash when it is released in cinemas this St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t waste your time on empty-calorie flicks, instead feast your eyes on the immensely satisfying Sing Street.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Sing Street is released 17th March 2016