John Carney, creator of Once and Begin Again, delivers another music driven indie film. This time, the movie is provided by a group of Irish school boys that are inspired by 80’s pop.
Connor, aka Cosmo, (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is a school age boy growing up in Dublin, Ireland in the 1980’s. His Irish-Catholic household consists of a mother, father, brother, sister and is crumbling at it’s foundation. Mom (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and dad (Aidan Gillen) are getting a divorce because mom fell in love with another man. Connor’s sister is kind of just an emo window dressing, but Connor and his brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) share a much deeper connection. Brendan’s big into music and he and his brother spend a lot of time watching the most recent trend in music, music videos.
Because the family’s finances are also deteriorating, Connor is taken out of his posh private school and sent to a more rough and tumble public school on Synge Street (pronounced Sing Street). Immediately upon entering his new school, Connor picks up a new bully and is befriended by one of the school’s misfits, Darren (Ben Carolan). He also meets a mysterious girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton). Wanting to impress her, he frantically comes up with the lie that he’s in a band and wants her to be in a video for this band. Needing to back up his lie, he and his new friend gather some other misfits from around the school to form a band. Fortunately, Darren knows a boy named Eamon (Mark McKenna) who can play every instrument that you’d need to. After gathering a few other members, they’re able to create an actual band with Eamon writing music and Connor writing the songs.
Of course, Connor’s muse is Raphina. Whenever he has a new experience with her or the band, he talks to his brother about it. In turn, Brendan points Connor to different musical influence including A-ha, Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, The Cure, and the like. He also encourages Connor to write original music. Of course, each song is heavily reminiscent of the artists that Connor is discovering, but the lyrics are mostly based on Raphina. Connor starts to learn more about Raphina and the band is actually able to create enough songs to book their first gig, a school dance.
As they get closer, Connor learns that Raphina is an orphan. Her mother is crazy manic/depressive who’s no longer in her life and her father is dead. She also dreams of going to London with her older boyfriend. Despite that, Connor is still hung up on her. As the band is preparing to shoot a video, Raphina disappears. Connor later finds out that she did run off after all. Before long, she returns heartbroken. During the first leg of her trip, she found out that her boyfriend was a huge fraud and he abandoned her.
It then becomes Connor’s turn to inspire her. He’s turned a corner with the band as they prepare for their gig. He stands up to his bully and eventually convinces him to become security/roadie for the band. His new passion for music has also pulled his brother out of his own unproductive funk in the wake of their parent’s divorce. Connor leaves music for Raphina to listen to and things culminate after the band plays the school dance. Their music is generally well received by the students and Connor gets a chance to take some shots at the people who’ve wronged him during the movie. Afterward, he goes to meet Raphina and the two decide to run off to London together. With his brother’s help Connor takes Raphina and his music to London with the hope of scoring a record deal for his band. As Brendand leaves the docks celebrating his brother’s bold decision, the movie ends showing the phrase, “For brothers everywhere”.
If you liked John Carney’s other works, Once and Begin Again, you’ll love this movie. It’s full of pitch perfect performances from an endearing cast of kids, some of whom are real musicians. The characters of Connor/Cosmo and Raphina are a prototypical adorable budding romance that hearken back to the days of young Molly Ringwald movies. Everything is set on top of a nostalgia driven soundtrack that it’s hard not to smile at. Even if you’re not a fan of 80’s music, the tunes are blended enough between 80’s and modern influences to make it appealing to everyone. If you are a fan of 80’s music, you’ll get a kick out of hearing the music that’s inspired by well known 80’s tunes. Everything comes together in a movie that comes of as very heartfelt and sincere, even if it does seem to meander at times.
I feel like my feeling that the movie sometimes lacked direction had to do with me not realizing what the story was really about early on. I didn’t realize how important the character of Brendan was or what he represented until the end of the movie. It also seems like most characters are allergic to answering personal questions. Instead they answer through stories. It’s the kind of thing that can make you lose track of a conversation if you’re not careful. That being said, I wouldn’t have wanted them to change the dialogue for anything. There were some really memorable lines mixed in with the character’s ramblings. I particularly liked, “No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins” and “You’re not happy being sad, but that’s what love is: happy sad”. They’re the kind of lines that are objectively corny but make perfect sense when they come out of the character’s mouths.
Even though it’s not a “perfect movie”, I do think this is a great one. It’s easily one of my best/favorite movies of the year so far.
Sing Street (2016)
- The Leads, Lucy Boynton and Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, are stars in this film, and the kids around them are pretty good to.
- A sweet and heartfelt story that becomes even more so when you realize what the story is really about.
- Some fun 80's inspired original songs.
- Many characters are just background with a 1 dimensional characteristic.
- The period, faithfulness leads to some almost comically non-PC moments.