SING STREET (Ireland | UK | USA/12A/106mins)
Directed by John Carney. Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jack Reynor.
THE PLOT: In Dublin of the 1980s, Connor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) finds himself sent to a new school – the Christian Brothers’ school on Dublin’s Synge Street – after his family runs into financial trouble. While trying to impress Raphina (Lucy Boynton), Connor tells her he is in a band, and finds himself having to reverse engineer one when she agrees to be in their music video.
THE VERDICT: John Carney’s latest film carries on the warm, huggable feel of ‘Begin Again’, with a tale of first loves and heartbreaks that has touches of ‘The Commitments’ and ‘School of Rock’, with a sprinkling of John Hughes-esque teen romance for good measure.
The young cast of ‘Sing Street’ do a great job of making the film come to life, Lucy Boynton, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Ben Carolan, Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka and Karl Rice are backed up by a lovely turn from Jack Reynor playing the pop psychology spouting, pop music loving Brendan, the brother of our young hero. The adults are made up of Don Wycherley, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Aidan Gillen who have significantly less to do, other than deliver plot points and foil plans.
John Carney’s screenplay for ‘Sing Street’ feels autobiographical and deeply personal, and it is this, combined with the energy of the young cast, the infectious songs and the great big dollops of Dublin humour that makes the film so charming. As well as new songs composed for the film – each in the style of a different 80s artist, such as Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and The Cure – the film’s soundtrack features songs from the greatest hits of past; keep an ear out for ‘I Fought the Law’ by The Clash, ‘Maneater’ by Hall & Oates, and ‘Gold’ by Spandau Ballet. The original songs are charming and sweet, with plenty of references to Dublin streets and landmarks for the home audiences.
The story of the film is simple – boy meets girl, boy starts band to impress girl – but it is the songs, the energy and the dialogue between the characters, which swings from insulting banter to charming in the blink of an eye, which makes the film special. Although the arc of Sing Street is fairly small, the crescendo is a gig at the school disco, this is such an emotional triumph for the characters that this small scale becomes part of the film’s charm.
In all, ‘Sing Street’ is a great big ball of energy, songs and humour, as well as a story about first love, first heartbreak and making tough choices. Less of a musical than a film with songs, ‘Sing Street’ has a huge heart and captures the breathlessness of young love.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Sing Street
Review by Brogen Hayes
  • filmbuff2011

    Sing Street is the third in John Carney’s musical trilogy, following Once and Begin Again. He’s returned to the streets of Dublin and gone back in time to the mid-1980s to tell a partly autobiographical story which is dedicated brothers everywhere.

    Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is just an average Dublin boy going through a unstable time in his family. His parents Robert (Aidan Gillen) and Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy) constantly argue with each other and a break-up is on the horizon. His older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), a college drop-out, is more clued-in as to what’s going on. Conor joins a new school in Synge Street run by the strict, no-nonsense Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley). Initially bullied, Conor tries to fit in by befriending some of the other misfits in the class. One day, he notices slightly older Raphina (Lucy Boynton) – a girl who lives across the road from the school and is effortlessly cool. He approaches her with the idea of her performing for a band he’s setting up. Conor sets up his school band, called Sing Street, and they film their first music video with Raphina. A tender friendship develops between Conor and Raphina, which blossoms into something more – if
    only Raphina would let Conor in to her closed-up heart…

    Sing Street is clearly a labour of love for Carney. Drawing from his own experiences as a teenager in the 1980s and as a bassist and vocalist for The Frames (along with Once star Glen Hansard), this is a very personal film but one that feels mostly honest and heartfelt. His script is sharp and warmly funny, with some beautifully written characters in Conor, Raphina and Brendan. Their characters arcs are smooth and gradual, showing Conor developing from an awkward teenager to a young man trying to gain control over his life. His stylistic
    aping of various contemporary bands and their clothes and haircuts is the source of much humour in the story. He’s just a good kid trying to get through those difficult years. Raphina is more complex, which makes her more realistic and less like a movie character ‘girl next door’.

    The young cast are all excellent and rise to the challenge of playing characters from a time before they were even born. English newcomer Boynton, in particular, is extraordinary. This film should certainly launch her into the limelight. If there’s a voice of reason in the film, it’s Brendan and Reynor is spot-on perfect here (based on Carney’s brother). Carney gets all the period detail just right – down to the
    oversized glasses and frilly haircuts along with a superb period soundtrack. The Riddle Of The Model music video is hilariously antiquated but in a an affectionate rather than cynical way.

    The only real mis-step is in the ending, which feels more like a fantasy dream sequence with tinges of reality, similar to the one where the band segue into a 1950s-style dance. A test screening that this reviewer attended in June 2015 revealed that the test audience wasn’t happy with the ending and felt that it was unrealistic. Carney hasn’t changed much, but he has at least listened to the feedback and made some minor modifications which make a bit more sense storywise. Whereas the disappointing endings of some films are enough to spoil
    the entire film, that’s thankfully not the case with Sing Street. There’s a lot of audience goodwill built up by then, so a slight mis-step in the ending can be forgiven. Sing Street is a real winner from Carney and proof enough that Irish cinema can be really good when it wants to be. Highly recommended. ****

  • Clive Bower

    Loved this film, John Carney back to his best work after Begin Again which was so so in my view, the film just pulls me in from start to finish whether it be the story line or the catchy tunes. Well worth a evening out in the cinema while supporting our own as well

  • emerb

    Following on from the success of ‘Once’ and ‘Begin Again’, writer-director John Carney brings us ‘Sing Street’, another entertaining and engaging movie which celebrates the uplifting power of music. Inevitably, it recalls the 1991 hit ‘The Commitments’ and perhaps also ‘Billy Elliot’. However, this is an autobiographical
    film with a fictionalized version of his teen years in bleak 1980s Ireland, where he attended a tough Catholic school during an era when the economic climate was driving many Irish over to England. It is a nostalgic coming-of-age drama, centred on a Dublin schoolboy who wants to be in a band and his heart melting adolescent romance with the girl of his dreams.

    In a lower-class area of Dublin in the 1980s, we are introduced to our hero, 14 year old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). His once comfortable family is finding the going rough and his constantly bickering, underemployed parents (played by Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) are forced to pull him out of his posh Jesuit school to save the family some money. Instead, he must attend the local
    Catholic school Synge Street, which is full of a rough bunch and teachers that couldn’t care less about the kids — where a student as intelligent as Conor doesn’t quite fit in. His older brother, music buff, Brendan (Jack Reynor), is unmotivated and has dropped out of college and Conor seeks solace by watching Top of the Pops with him. Things start to look up when he spots the beguiling, somewhat sullen older girl, Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who is set to emigrate to London with aspirations to become a model. He sheepishly convinces her to be part of the music video for his band before she goes, and then keeps coming up with more music so that he can spend more time with her. The only problem is that he doesn’t actually have a proper band yet. Assembling the band proves easy enough, he wrangles together a motley bunch of misfits and the eponymous tribute band ‘Sing Street’ is formed, beginning their quest for fame. Conor writes the lyrics, influenced by his infatuation with Raphina, as well as his music-obsessed brother, who begins taking Conor’s musical education in hand. Brendan sees his potential and the scenes shared between the two brothers are among the movie’s best, thanks in large part to the warm fraternal affection displayed by Reynor. After several months, the band has enough of a repertoire to headline a school dance.

    Performances are strong from the lovable ensemble of Irish talent, with the ever-likeable Reynor the standout, as expected. Newcomer Walsh-Peelo is perfectly cast, he is sweet-natured, delightful and his confidence ensures he is well capable of carrying the film. We watch his Conor blossom from a timid kid to a cool kid, thanks to the power of his love for music. There is also a nice sparky chemistry between him and Boynton to keep the relationship credible. Where their love story is sweet and realistic, it is the relationship between Conor and his college dropout brother which is the truest and most touching. I do think the band members could have benefitted from more individual character development though. ‘Sing Street’ is heartfelt, charming and a real crowd-pleaser. Consistently amusing, it also makes good use of Dublin locations, which I liked. The song-writing and rehearsal scenes are excellent and the music and fashion trends from Duran Duran, The Cure and Spandau Ballet all make appearances too. While it is a music-rich film, you don’t have to be a huge fan to enjoy it and its release is sure to be a far-reaching success. It will, of course, have endless appeal for anyone who ever tried their hand at being in a school band in their youth or given a go at a musical instrument. Thanks to some witty1980’s nostalgia and infectious original songs, Carney hits all the right notes again.