THE WEINSTEIN COMPANY (2016)
Director: James Carney
Starring: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Aiden Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jack Reynor, Mark McKenna
The third movie from director John Carney, Sing Street is a movie loosely based on Carney’s own experiences growing up in Dublin – the highs, the lows, the dreams and the struggles. The movie is a tough, affectionate and real view of the dreams of wide-eyed youngsters wanting to break out in the world, showing the good times and hitting hard with the setbacks, there’s no pretending here. From the parents relationship loudly and aggressively falling apart, the school bullies (not just the actual bullies either), the seemingly unattainable love, the failed dreams and the lack of resources available to get to London to “make it”, Sing Street isn’t simply a tale of making a band and having a blast.
The movie is funny throughout, and laced with poignancy and adversity – a blend that Carney manages to nail. It could’ve been oh-so-melancholy if he hadn’t.
What the movie also doesn’t hide is the main reason Conor starts the band and runs with it – to get laid.
Using music as salvation, the movie blends various styles and music from the era to form a backdrop for the scenes and the progression of the relationships. Brendan knows every song for every emotion Conor has and lives his life for music, though regretfully never fulfilled his own dreams. As the movie progresses, the band change their ‘look’ at every turn – there’s Adam Ant vibes, Morrissey, Simon LeBon, whatever band became the inspiration for their next song. The band power through their self-written cuts (written by Carney and Gary Clark) which all sounds great and capture the sound of the times perfectly. All good bands need catchy songs, and Sing Street have them pouring out of their faces.
What makes the movie work is that throughout, through all of the positives, the successes and gains, there is no ‘firm’ conclusion, the movie doesn’t end with the rags-to-riches band signing a multi-million pound contract in London and hitting number one in the charts. It ends with possibilities, with the dream still alive and kicking and an unknown adventure going into the future. What also makes the movie work is the cast…
All relative newcomers to the game, the cast as a whole is magnificent. Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is scintillating in his debut role, leading the movie with the air of a seasoned pro. As the movie’s focal point, he was required to be everything – the frontman, the naïve teen, the adolescent lover, the victim, the sensitive presence and vulnerable. What a job he managed to do, expressing every emotion required and selling the role perfectly. Lucy Boynton is wonderful as the stylish, slightly reckless model with dreams, aspirations and fears in equal measure – though her Irish accent wavers at times, the relationship between the two of them is suitably heartfelt and awkward at the same time – a very positive aspect. The key relationship throughout – and most heartfelt – is that of Conor and Brendan. Brendan is always on hand to thoughtfully guide his younger brother through his dreams, whilst ever rueful of never chasing his own. It’s a terrific performance from Jack Reynor. In smaller roles, Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy are excellent.
There’s not a lot to fault here to be perfectly honest, did the band become accomplished and very polished very quickly? Maybe, but that can be put down to the luck of the Irish…
Sing Street provides a tremendous viewing experience with sound at the forefront ahead of visuals, and is a heartfelt, witty, genuine take on young love and dreams without ever falling into all-out sentiment all set to a backdrop of cracking tunes – oldies and originals.
The movie ends with the poignant dedication “for brothers everywhere” which is completely apt, but I’ll add to it that Sing Street is for everyone everywhere – a real gem.
November 10th 2016