Reviewed by Mason Manuel
A band. A love struck teen. 1985 in all of its cheesy glory. You would be forgiven if the name John Hughes was the first thing to come to mind but incorrect. These romantic traits are belonging to Dublin native John Carney’s latest, Sing Street. Like his previous films Once and Begin Again, the film deals with love, the city, and most of all, music but sets itself apart with a relatively young cast. While this may hinder other films, the youths’ skill matched with some utterly FANTASTIC music makes Sing Street easily one of the best independent films of the year.
15 year old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) lives in a rough home where his parents constantly bicker and money is tight. To bring his parents sparring into a better light he sometimes converts their fights into song lyrics (“If we didn’t share a mortgage I’d leave you”). Musically though he is woefully untalented. But he’ll be damned if he doesn’t try after he runs into Raphina (Lucy Boynton) who is coincidentally a model that he wants in a music video for his band. The problem? He doesn’t have a band. He can barely hold a tune of “Take on Me.” Conor needs to find a band that can actually play and thankfully runs into friends that can help him. Also providing assistance is his older, smoother brother Brendan (Transformers 4’s Jack Reynor) who gets a little too invested in helping his brother get the girl. Together this rag tag band of musicians will make the coolest band ever or commit social suicide trying. Either way, they are in for a hell of a time.
Is the plot very original? Admittedly no. Carney’s story takes notes from countless other films hitting the same subject, including his own. But holy s*it does it rock. It could be argued that by the time the credits roll, Conor is more in love with music than Raphina and the same could be said for the audience. An awesome mix of classics from A-ha!, Hall and Oates, and more made me want to dance in the aisles in a way I had not felt since Guardians of the Galaxy was released. Also spectacular are the film’s original songs written by Carney himself. Fun and whimsical but not without a sense of serious issues, the pieces come off with the same attitude that music from the 70s and 80s were constantly trying to capture.
The plot forever remains light hearted but is always surrounded by areas of despair. Images of broken homes and poverty hover just along the sidelines, never completely forgotten, but never in the spotlight either. That’s because this is the tale of a couple kids trying to help their friend get the girl with the power of some awesome jams, and that is what Carney captures expertly with help from his excellent cast. Though some moments may be overtly cheesy and too over the top for some, it can still speak to the type of ridiculous love that Carney attempts to visualize. RDR gives Sing Street a 9 out of 10.