Sing Street (2016)
★★★ / ★★★★
“Sing Street,” written and directed by John Carney, falls into the familiar plotting which involves a teenager living in the dreary inner-city Dublin who manages to find an outlet for his thoughts, emotions, wants and needs by forming a band with his peers. However, undeniably fresh about the picture is its confidence of execution. The final product could have turned out to be yet another musical for teens where scenes merely parade the screen in order to build up to the next performance, but notice there are a handful of interesting characters to be found here.
Particularly touching through an occasionally comic lens is the relationship between brothers. Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is the youngest of three and he seeks romantic and musical advice from his eldest sibling, Brendan (Jack Reynor), the university dropout. Their exchanges, while amusing at times, command a realism to them that viewers with brothers will immediately recognize and inevitably relate with. Brendan is seen by the family, particularly the parents, as a bum but Conor regards him as someone trustworthy and of high value. Recognize there is not one scene that show parents relating to their children in a meaningful way. That missing relationship strengthens the brothers’ bond.
Set in 1985, the film is filled to the brim with music by Duran Duran, The Cure, Hall & Oates, among others. But the original songs shine, too. They are energetic, clever, well-written, and meaningful. Perhaps the most interesting sections of the material involve the recruitment of band members and trying to figure out what kind of music they wish to make. I enjoyed that we are able to see a clear improvement and progression not only in terms of songs but also in how the characters appear to have increased their confidence with each passing performance. Throughout the picture, we get the impression that the band is continuing to grow and evolve.
I wished, however, that a few of the later songs did not sound so polished. Take note of the pop ballads and how effective they are because what is showcased is the voice and only one or two instruments to build the tempo. The polished feel gives the feeling that the teens have made it big eventually but the story is never about becoming pop stars or celebrities. It is about outcasts coming together and creating art out of their trials and tribulations—whether it be with parents, authority figures at school, or trouble with getting girls.
Another limitation is spending too much time with Conor and his romantic interest (Lucy Boynton). We have seen characters like Raphina before: almost unapproachably beautiful with aspirations of appearing on magazine covers who turns out to have a sad backstory. Instead, more time should have been given to the band members. I would like to know more about Eamon (Mark McKenna), the multi-instrumentalist who loves rabbits. (Early in the picture, he suggests their band be called The Rabbits before the group reaches a decision that they be known as Sing Street.)
Romantics will fall hook, line, and sinker for “Sing Street” because it is equipped with a healthy dosage of humor and drama with enough infectious pop songs tying them together. It is a movie for people who have felt like outcasts as teenagers. At the same time, it offers a great message for teenagers who currently feel marginalized: Find something you enjoy, strive to get better at it, use that passion to make your life richer in some way, be open to evolve, and look for ways to break boundaries. As David Bowie coined, “Tomorrow belongs to those who can hear it coming.”