“Sing Street” (2016)
When we first meet 15-year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), he is alone in his room attempting to write a song with his guitar. He is not doing too well in his songwriting, not because he can’t sing or play, but because his parents are downstairs arguing in a heated conversation that seems to get louder, even as Conor closes his door. The arguing is so loud that Conor starts to incorporate the dialogue of his parent’s argument into his song.
Conor is summoned downstairs for a family meeting. He learns that due to dwindling finances, his parents (Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy) have decided that Conor will have to leave his private Jesuit school for a local public school run by Catholic priests. Conor is the only one in the family that is affected by this decision. Conor’s older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), he dropped out of college and spends his days listening to music and smoking weed in his room. His older sister (Kelly Thornton) is going to college on a scholarship. The kids seem to spend most of their time in the house avoiding their parent’s daily fights. The family appears to spend its only time together watching “Top of the Pops,” a music program that sometimes plays music videos for bands like Duran Duran.
Conor’s first day is full of adventure, in a bad way. He instantly doesn’t fit in, as the other students sense that he is a little different from this rough and tumble group of kids. He is told by the head priest that his shoes must be black, not brown like the ones he has on. He is instantly challenged on the school yard by a bully and is made fun of constantly by the rest of his fellow students. He does make a friend in another outcast, Darren (Ben Carolan), whose life plan is to become some sort of manager, as displayed on his homemade business card.
Conor’s day becomes better when he spots a beautiful girl hanging out on the doorsteps of a building across from the school. He musters up the courage to talk with the girl to the surprise of Darren. Her name is Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and though only a year older, seems much more mature and sure of herself. She is a model with plans on going to London and hitting it big. Conor sees this information as an opportunity and quickly tells her that he is in a band, and they need a model to shoot a video. She makes Conor prove that he can sing and then when convinced that he can, she gives him her “digits,” Conor walks triumphantly back to his friend and tells Darren that they must now form a band.
Writer/director John Carney, who brought us the fantastic “Once” (2007) and the enchanting “Begin Again” (2013), works his magic again to bring us the delightful “Sing Street.” Part love story where Conor tries and mostly fails to woo Raphina, part coming of age story as our hero finds his voice in making music, the film succeeds on both fronts. The music is the heart of this movie. Carney uses the fledgling days of MTV to be the backbone of the music genres that are displayed. As Conor attempts to figure out the sound and style of his band; he is influenced by the latest videos and the almost nightly lessons in rock music that his brother conducts for him. Conor’s brother has a vast collection record collection and delights in giving out his opinion on what is and isn’t good music. We get to enjoy legendary songs from Duran Duran, The Cure, A-Ha, The Clash, and Spandau Ballet. While the classic 80s songs are fun to listen to, it’s the original songs sung by Conor and his band that makes this film a joy to watch. As the band and Conor develop, they take the influences of MTV and Conor’s brother, meshing them into their own songs. Each song is catchy, upbeat and a blast to listen and watch on the screen. The music videos the band creates are hilarious, though I must say, even their first attempt at a music video is better than probably a third of the videos that were on MTV at that time-period. There is a fantasy musical number where Conor envisions a music video that is far superior to a lot of recent Hollywood musical numbers. Equally inventive and fun are the costumes, designed by Tiziana Corvisieri, that change as the band moves forward to embrace the latest styles in both look and music.
I loved the chemistry between the two leads. Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is riveting as the talented, but sometimes unsure Conor. Walsh-Peelo has an excellent singing voice that works well with the song styles of the era. He makes you believe that Conor will succeed, no matter what obstacle he has to overcome. Lucy Boynton is perfect as the femme fatale Raphina, who is intrigued by Conor, even when he shows his youth in his attempts to impress her. They work incredibly well on the screen together, making their attraction seem believable, and we sense that it’s inevitable that they will somehow end up with each other.
“Sing Street” is a joyful celebration of a very creative time in music. By the time the film ends, you will wish that Conor and his “Sing Street” band was real because you will want to hear more of their songs, hopefully on that newfangled cable channel that plays all those music videos. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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