SING STREET (2015)
Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Mark McKenna, Kelly Thornton, Ian Kenny, Ben Carolan, Percy Chamburuka, Karl Rice, Conor Hamilton, Don Wycherley and Lydia McGuinness.
Screenplay by John Carney.
Directed by John Carney.
Distributed by The Weinstein Company. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Irish former musician turned writer/director John Carney has made three films in the past decade, and all three have been variations of the same basic story. A down-on-his-luck musician meets a beautiful woman who becomes his muse. They start to work together, forming a band and discovering the intimacy of creating art together. They both have complications in their own personal lives, but still find a strong bond forming – however is it romance or just the strong pull of shared creation? Are they doomed to drift apart after the real world punctures their little cocoon of musical collaboration?
So, yes, it’s kind of a specialized storyline. I’ve got to say, though, if the movies continue to be as heartfelt and narratively strong as Once, Begin Again and now Sing Street, then I’m all in. I’ll keep coming back as long as Carney keeps making the movies.
Carney’s obvious passion for the sheer act of normal people discovering they can make music still continues to be fascinating. Each of the films have their own little quirks and eccentricities that keep them endlessly fascinating.
For example, Sing Street is Carney’s nostalgic movie – a look back at creating a first band back in the middle of the new wave 80s, a period when bands like U2 and Big Country were breaking out of Ireland onto MTV and the sky was the limit.
The lead character is Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a 15-year-old loser who is the new kid in a strict Catholic school. In a very realistic turn, Conor has no real musical experience or interest in being in a band until he realizes that it would impress a gorgeous older woman (she’s 17!) who hangs near the school. After telling Raphina (Lucy Boynton) that he was making a video and he’d love to have her appear in it, he has to come up with a band and a song to cover his lie.
The one slight problem I have with Sing Street stems from this – Colin seems to learn how to be a professional musician awfully fast. Early on when forming the band, he insists on singing, intimating he does not perform any instruments, and writing lyrics because he doesn’t know how to write music. Several scenes later he’s completely proficient at playing guitar, and by the end of the film his brother is giving him his lyrics for Colin to turn into songs.
But, okay, this is a first-band fantasy movie and you’d have to be a total Grinch to not just give in to the good vibes. The whole point of being young and in a garage band is to break out and find skills you never knew.
Also, since they are younger, Sing Street is the most blatantly romantic film that Carney has made yet. Sing Street seems to be the first Carney film which may end with a love match – though it is left very much up in the air, the signs are looking promising, which is something of a change from the bittersweet codas of Once and Begin Again.
After slightly going Hollywood with Begin Again (working with Hollywood stars like Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, James Corden, Hailee Steinfeld, etc.), Carney returns to the mean streets of his native Dublin and to a completely unknown cast. This gives the film a grimier, real-life vibe like his breakout Once – which is not to say Begin Again wasn’t terrific, too, it was just a bit shinier.
Of course, in a movie that celebrates the creation of music, the soundtrack is key. Once again, Carney scores musically. As a period piece, the music is a different style than in the previous films – Once was made up of gorgeous Irish folk rock and Begin Again had a slicker version of LA alt-pop. Since this film takes place in the New Wave years (it seems to take place in about 1985), the original songs mix into the soundtrack with classic 80s tracks like Duran Duran’s “Rio,” a-ha’s “Take On Me,” The Cure’s “In Between Days,” Hall & Oates’ “Maneater,” Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out” and M’s “Pop Muzik.” Pleasantly, the new songs fit in with such classic hits pretty comfortably. In fact, the songwriting actually follows an interesting arc of learning here. The first song the band wrote showed promise, but wasn’t great. As the film goes on and the group learns about songwriting, the songs get progressively stronger.
Sing Street is a celebration of big dreams and puppy love. It is populated with smart, funny, awkward, quirky characters. So, okay, it’s not the world’s most original film. Beyond Carney’s other films, it’s probably not a coincidence that the movie poster looks an awful lot like the one-sheet from a similar 80s rock and roll love story called Times Square.
None of that matters. Once again, Sing Street is a triumph. Definitely seek it out.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2016 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 26, 2016.