Set in Ireland during the 1980s, Sing Street (2016) follows the life of a young man named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), who is struggling to find himself with the overwhelming pressure of both school and family life. His life is completely changed when he stumbles across Raphina (Lucy Boynton), an aspiring model that he intends to impress. The one way he feels that he can truly woo her is by roping her into modelling for his band’s music video – the only problem being, he doesn’t have a band yet.
Directed by John Carney, who also directed the musical romances Once (2007) and Begin Again (2013), Sing Street perfectly weaves elements of high school drama with the witty nature of modern independent comedies. Carney has been part of a growing contingent of Irish directors achieving global acclaim, with contemporaries such as Lenny Abrahamson (Room) and Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). Sing Street is another resounding success for Irish film.
Once Conor has managed to put together a make-shift group of kids from his school to create a band, they begin to play a range of popular ’80s covers. The futuristic style of their costumes creates a unique juxtaposition with the dull streets of the hometown where they shoot their first music video, the ever so catchy original track ‘The Riddle of the Model’. Something that particularly stuck with me since seeing the film was the role of Conor’s typically grumpy older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor). As Conor develops a passionate love of music and reveals his dreams to start a new life in England, his brother tells him “rock ‘n’ roll is a risk, you risk being ridiculed.” If you don’t try, you’ll never succeed. The film’s moral may be a familiar one, but it makes for an uplifting message.
Only 16 at the time of filming, Walsh-Peelo’s performance as Conor (who takes on the nickname “Cosmo”) shows his strength as a young actor. For once, a teen character actually looks like a teen, which adds to the film’s sense of realism. Jack Reynor, recently starring in Midsommar, is also a stand-out. He excels in the role of a man who has clearly lost his way in life, and doesn’t want his young brother to follow the same, regretful path.
I have always struggled to enjoy musicals due to their over-the-top nature. Sing Street, however, has a winning combination of a realistic coming-of-age storyline and eye-catching visuals. Even if you feel that musicals are not your thing, give Sing Street a shot and it might change your mind. Soon enough, you’ll likely have the incredible soundtrack on loop.
Sing Street (2016), directed by John Carney, was distributed in the UK by Lionsgate, certificate 12A. Watch the trailer below: