For my latest movie review, I’m going to critique a movie that was released a few months ago in my native country of Ireland, and features a copious amount of Irish actors and was filmed in Dublin- “Sing Street” (2016), directed by John Carney. It deviates from my usual reviews in that it’s a recent movie which takes place in the 1980’s, as opposed to being released in that decade. The movie has drawn comparisons to Alan Parker’s 1991 musical comedy, “The Commitments”, which is also a movie about a group of youths based in Dublin who put a band together. Despite both of them including actress Maria Doyle Kennedy in a supporting role, the plots of both flicks are vastly different.
The Plot in a Nutshell: The year is 1985. 15 year old Conor Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) doesn’t have the most enviable home life. His parents, Robert (Aidan Gillen) and Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy) are constantly at each others’ throats. While his sister Ann (Kelly Thornton) copes by burying herself into her schoolwork,his college dropout brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) smokes pot and makes wisecracks. Due to the downsizing of the economy, Conor is transferred from his private school to Synge Street Christian Brothers School, a rough Catholic establishment. After running afoul of both schoolyard bullies and Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley), the school’s oppressive principal, Conor spies mysterious budding model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) from across the street. Willing to impress her, he offers her the chance to star in his band’s music video. The slight catch? The band doesn’t exist.
Nevertheless, Conor gathers a motley crew of musicians, who remarkably have all the skills needed to create a band. Guided by Brendan, he starts to write original songs for the group, now called “Sing Street” after their school, in a bid to distract himself from his crumbling domestic life. Along the way, he starts to become closer to Raphina, and he begins to embark on a path that he never quite anticipated…
Character/Actor Observations: For starters, the young ensemble cast was very expertly cast. I felt that all of the teenage band members had a natural presence, and that they would be the type of youths that I would run into on a daily basis. As someone who is used to seeing actors in their twenties and beyond portray teenagers on screen, it was refreshing to see real teenagers take on these roles. I especially liked the prominent relationship that Conor has with Brendan, as they reestablish the bond through their love of music. Reynor steals many of the scenes that he appears in, and has excellent brotherly chemistry with newcomer Walsh-Peelo. Lucy Boynton is well cast opposite Walsh-Peelo, and many of their scenes together were tinged with the appropriate amount of tenderness required.
My Favourite Scene in “Sing Street”: Two scenes vie for being my favourite in the movie. The first comes about when Sing Street are shooting their first music video, entitled “The Riddle of the Model” (definitely NOT inspired by Raphina). The video looks amateurish, exactly as if a group of kids had filmed it, with the band sporting garish costumes. The song is additionally catchy to boot!
The second scene appears much later in the movie, when Sing Street are scheduled to preform a concert in their school gym. Conor fantasizes about the whole school breaking out into a dance, to their song, “Drive it like you stole it”, clearly influenced by “Back to the Future”, with the students decked out in 1950’s attire, much like that movie. Beneath the humour, however, there is an undercurrent of sadness to this sequence, but it still manages to be entertaining and visually stunning to look at.
My Least Favourite Scene in “Sing Street”: If I’m being completely honest, I was on board with this film and the characters until the climax. Without giving too much away, I felt that the end didn’t quite mesh well with the rest of the movie, and frankly seemed a little rushed in my opinion. Some of you may hold different opinions on the ending, and I’d be interested to know how anyone feels regarding it.
Actors Before They were Famous: The jury’s still out on whether any of the young cast will amount to greater things in the future. However, it still contains supporting performances from many notable Irish actors, such as Aidan Gillen from acclaimed Irish gangster drama “Love/Hate”, and the aforementioned Maria Doyle Kennedy, who has appeared in such works as “Downton Abbey” and “Jupiter Ascending”.
Ratings and Recommendations : If you’re a fan of 80’s bands such as Duran Duran, The Clash, A-Ha and Hall and Oates, then I’d suggest watching this movie, as it makes for a trip down memory lane of sorts for those who grew up in the 1980’s. For those who were not as fortunate to grow up in that era, such as myself, it can give an insight to how people lived in Ireland in that period.
In summation, “Sing Street” receives a grand total of 4 and a half stars out of five. If you enjoyed this movie, I’d suggest watching some of John Carney’s other directorial projects, such as the Academy Award winning “Once” (2006), or 2013’s “Begin Again”, for some more tales of musical triumphs and pitfalls. Highly recommended!