It’s not often that I do a standard movie review. In general I prefer to write a piece about a film if I have some way to tie it in to a broader subject. But Sing Street isn’t just another movie. Sing Street is one of the best films of the year so far. Critics have been praising Sing Street for the past few months, so when I saw that it was available to rent, naturally I was very excited. Upon sitting down to watch the film, I was met with something positively delightful.
Sing Street takes place in 1980’s Dublin, at a boy’s school for children who aren’t very well-off. Our protagonist, Conor, is transferred to this school when his parents, whose relationship is crumbling day by day, essentially run out of money. One day, after leaving this school, Conor meets and falls instantly in love with an aspiring model named Raphina. In an attempt to impress her, Conor asks her to be in a music video for his band (which doesn’t actually exist); upon her affirmative reply, Conor is now faced with the monumental task of forming a band. And thus, our story begins.
Sing Street is one of those films that simply makes you happy. While the characters do deal with genuine troubles, like marital strife and image-confidence issues, it never crosses the threshold to become depressing, or heavy-handed. The story of these kids forming a band is a terrifically fun coming-of-age story that will stand true throughout all time. The real heart of this movie, lies at the relationship between Conor and his older brother Brendan, played by Jack Reynor. Brendan is a man stuck in a rut, having just dropped out of college and spending all of his time at home, only finding fulfillment in mentoring his younger brother. Brendan helps Conor throughout his band’s exploits, exposing him to music from bands like Duran Duran and The Cure, while simultaneously easing the pain of their parents’ anguish. Reynor is probably the most enjoyable person to watch in a film full of terrific performances, as he can go from making you laugh gleefully to captivating your attention in more sincere or serious lines of dialogue. The young man playing Conor, an unknown by the name of Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, is a decidedly entertaining actor as well. He never feels annoying or disingenuous, and brilliantly displays someone whose life is a mixture of joy and melancholia. While no one in this film is going to win an Oscar for their performance, they are the perfect actors for their roles. Characters that usually have the capacity to be obnoxious or unrealistic, i.e. the bully or the mean private-school headmaster, feel real and alive, as if they were someone you could actually know personally. Even the love interest, Raphina, is treated with dignity and does more to serve the story than just be “the girl.”
Let’s discuss the music in this film. Absolutely terrific. Each song that these kids write feels completely like something that was plucked straight out of the era. But still, they feel like songs that anybody could write; these teenage musicians aren’t treated like prodigies, just people who really like to make music. Better still, the songs are written to match the tone of the film at that juncture. The lyrics reflect the conflicts at hand and the music amplifies the emotions of the characters. But most importantly, as soon as this film ended, I saved the entire album on Spotify, so the music extends beyond the capacities of the movie.
John Carney, creator of Once and Begin Again, directed this film. I haven’t seen Once, but I can say with confidence that this is a much better film than Begin Again. While Begin Again also had some great music, it never really felt coherent enough to be considered a movie. Sing Street on the other hand, is a massive step-up. The direction in this film is just terrific. Carney has managed to create a film in which each scene feels like part of something bigger than just this movie, as if these characters lives extend long past the end credits, and we’re just being given a glimpse into an outlet of their greater story. It’s not easy to make a movie about a band without it feeling cliched, but Carney does so with expertise. While there’s nothing shocking or flamboyant about Sing Street, it still feels fresh and unique. This movie doesn’t need to go above and beyond, it is much better suited to this sort of enclosed and intimate story. I loved Sing Street, loved it wholeheartedly. It is without a doubt one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. It doesn’t beat Swiss Army Man for me, but it’s definitely up there. If you get a chance to check it out, I highly recommend it.
Image: The band walks down a street in Sing Street, from Cosmo Films