Warm, witty and full of heart, SING STREET is a film about identity, young love, escapism and music
Eight years after his award-winning Irish musical ONCE, writer/director John Carney returns to familiar territory with SING STREET, a coming-of-age musical melodrama of teenage love.
Set in Dublin in 1985, SING STREET tells the story of Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a teenage boy who starts a band to escape his strained family life and win over the heart of the beautiful and unattainable Raphina (Lucy Boynton). In an attempt to impress her, he asks her to be in his band’s music video – except there is no video and there is no band. With guidance from his older brother, Brendan, (Jack Reynor), Conor and some kids from the neighbourhood quickly cobble together a group, whose sound changes as quickly as their MTV-inspired wardrobe.
Warm, witty and full of heart, SING STREET is a film about identity, young love, escapism and music. Writer/Director John Carney himself lived several years in Dublin and experienced directly the social upheaval in the 80s. In the opening sequences, the Irish are shown immigrating to London in droves, seeking work and a hopeful future, and like Conor, the harsh economic realities of Ireland in the ’80s hit Carney’s parents hard. The semi-autobiographical, semi-musical film feels extremely personal but is lovingly put together.
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo makes a remarkable film debut as Conor, the 15-year-old schoolboy who dresses like Simon LeBon one minute and Morrissey the next as he attempts to win the heart of his dream girl. His chemistry with Lucy Boynton as the mysterious and mature Raphina is sweet and dreamy, but it is his endearing relationship with his older brother Brendan that truly pulls on the heart strings.
Jack Reynor is superb as the hippie, weed-smoking Brendan, lecturing Conor on music as well as how to get the girl. His performance is central to the film’s success, his sincere love for his brother providing him the wisdom and means to break loose. Elsewhere, Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy shine in their small roles as Conor’s feuding parents, as does Mark McKenna as Conor’s co-writing partner Eamon.
The film’s pulsating soundtrack is critical to its success with its plethora of catchy ’80s pop songs from Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet and The Cure. Music is the driving force of the narrative and Carney’s cleverly uses original tracks written for the film such as The Riddle of the Model, Up and Drive It Like You Stole It (written by Carney and Danny Wilson frontman Gary Clark), to reflect not only the different styles of the 80s but also the band’s development from synth-pop to New Wave as they try to figure out who they are.
While there is much to love in SING STREET, there are a couple of false notes along the way, including a scene involving physical abuse and a priest. I was also a little disappointed with the finale, with Carney choosing to conclude with a crowd-pleaser that is impetuous and a little unbelievable.
That said, SING STREET is well worth a watch, particularly if you’re a fan of 80s music. All in all, a hugely enjoyable feel-good film, with memorable characters and an amazing soundtrack to boot.
SING STREET is released in UK cinemas on 20 May 2016.