by Toby Woollaston
Irish writer-director, John Carney, has had a string of hits and misses in his career. His surprise triumph, Once, beautifully expressed a delicate love story through song and picture and garnered critical success. However, Carney’s mojo quickly evaporated with his subsequent releases Zonad, and the recent foray into America with Begin Again, which was met with a tepid reception. His latest feature, Sing Street goes a long way to restoring his creditability as a director who can blend an authentic heart-felt story with music. Set in 1985 among the schooling milieu of a depressed Dublin, Sing Street ostensibly operates as an autobiography of Carney’s musical upbringing.
Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a high school student, admires Raphina (Lucy Boynton) from afar. In an effort to impress her, he inadvertently paints himself into a corner by inviting her to a film shoot for his band. The only problem is that he doesn’t have a band yet. Conor does the only thing he can do in the situation – round up an eclectic bunch of students and start a band named Sing Street (a play on Synge Street, the public school that has been thrust upon Conor by his troubled parents).
Thankfully, Conor’s interest in music is already established and his pot smoking older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), who also operates as his mentor, goes a long way to teaching him the ins-and-outs of the current day musical trends. Queue music from The Cure, The Jam, Duran Duran, Motörhead, Hall and Oates, Joe Jackson (even Genesis gets a look-in) as Conor reinvents himself and his band from image to image. Thankfully Sing Street stops short of attempting an exhaustive exploration of music from the era – a move that would certainly cheapen the film’s musical homage. Instead, it keeps at its core the progression of Conor’s relationship with Brendan, Raphina, and his pursuit towards greater musical endeavours.
Not an out-and-out musical compared with the likes of Grease or Hair Spray, Sing Street‘s musical antics are more diegetic in nature, but just as playful. It keeps itself rooted in Carney’s memory of Dublin in the eighties resulting in a presentation more akin to The Commitments … or perhaps a musical version of Son of Rambo is more accurate. Far from overcooked, as many films from this genre often are, Sing Street is a fun film and a delightful nostalgic kick. Sing Street is due for release on DVD/Blu-ray and on demand on 26th October. Definitely worth a look.
Star rating: 4/5
See the published review here.