John Carney had great success with the Oscar-winning Once, but his follow-up, Begin Again, wasn’t so well received. However, he’s back on top with Sing Street, a great, Irish coming-of-age flick, which like his earlier movies is infused throughout with music.
Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is surprised when he’s pulled out of his private school and sent to a local Catholic school, which he soon discovers is more like a containment zone for out of control kids than an educational establishment, not helped by the fact it’s run by an overgrown bully. After the culture shock settles, Conor decides to do what many before him have done to attempt to impress a girl he’s met – start a band.
Gathering a few others together, they have to decide what sort of music to play. As it’s the 1980s they settle on a New Romantic, Futurist sound. At first it looks like Conor’s plan to impress teen model Ann is working, until he discovers he’s already got a boyfriend. However, as his family begins to fall apart, he discovers he has a real talent for music, which may lead to playing the school dance and further attempts to get the girl.
Sing Street may not have the most original of plots, hitting many of the beats you’d expect from this sort of coming-of-age tale, but what it does have is huge amounts of heart, charm, and a real feel for the era that it’s set in. Carney’s script manages to pull into a real feel for being a teenager – the over the top dreams, hope and exploration, as well as the humiliations, confusion and heartbreak.
It certainly doesn’t hurt either that there’s some great music, both old and new (although in the style of the 1980s). Nowadays it’s easy to look back at 80s pop with its OTT clothes, makeup and synth-style as being rather cheesy, but what Sing Street does perfectly is to show what a breath of fresh air the likes of Duran Duran were at the time – and that to young people they were a doorway to a different world, offering the possibility of something far different to their own lives.
It’s a movie that will make you nostalgic for your own youth, as well at getting your own toes tapping. That’s helped by a great central performance from Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor, who also does his own singing in the movie. Indeed, the whole band would had been pretty good in the 80s and you could imagine them on Top Of The Pops.
Overall Verdict: An immensely charming, nostalgic and sweet coming-of-age film, infused with some great music and a real feel for the vagaries of youth.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac