What I love about John Carney is that in each of his films from Once and Begin Again uses the element of music to tell stories. When you thought John Carney’s love of music teetered out after Begin Again [which is like Once in NYC], Sing Street perfectly shows that he has so much tricks left in his his sleeve. Once was set in Dublin, Begin Again was a New York story, and now with his third film Sing Street goes back to his Dublin roots.
SING STREET takes us back to 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy named Conor who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents' relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, über-cool and beautiful Raphina, and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band's music videos. There's only one problem: he's not part of a band...yet. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver what he's promised - calling himself "Cosmo" and immersing himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the decade, he forms a band with a few lads, and the group pours their heart into writing lyrics and shooting videos.
The thing about Sing Street which makes it different from the other two films in Carney’s filmography is that this time around, he’s telling a coming of age story centered around teenagers in high school. You would think a film like this will follow in the footsteps of films such as 2009’s Bandslam, but instead the film manages to be it’s own story. It’s as if Carney took the formula of a John Hughes film and used the music of the 80s and his own original songs to tell this story. It works quite fantastically throughout. This movie is a much better a love letter to 80s music than Rock of Ages ever wished it was. The film is a semi autobiographical depiction of Carney's upbringing in Dublin, so you know that a lot of the film was inspiration and reflection on his own life put into the story.
The young talent in this film are all phenomenal. They don’t come off as character types, but instead come off as real people. There are moments I forgot I was watching a film but instead watching a Day in the Life of. The shining stars of the film are Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor, and Lucy Boynton as Ralphina. Their first interaction early into the movie kicks off the story and creates nothing but high energy from the cast around them. Their chemistry is very genuine and undeniably cute due to the limits Conor goes just to get a girl like Raphina to be his. He literally starts a band just to impress her. That’s both teenager stupidity and true dedication rolled into one.
The family dynamic in the film is shown in a way that is emotionally heartwarming in the worst of ways which is very relatable to every teenager with siblings. The way I speak of gets to you whether you can relate to it or not. It’s just how Conor looks up to his brother [who is remarkably played by Jack Reynor that I prefer seeing him in films like these than Transformers films] when their family values are falling apart and the way they care for one another is heartbreakingly heartwarming.
But the number one thing that makes this film work is the music. Not only does the music of Sing Street make your head bop, but it makes you wanna go straight to iTunes and download the entire album [which I am doing right now]. The original music written for the film is so tight that it integrates to the story and creates some really catchy tunes. You can tell how each song was inspired by a certain band, because the movie references the music which was hot at the time that inspires Conor to write his own music with a similar tune to that referenced band. This leads to fantasy and reality music video sequences that satirizes the 80s in time capsule. The film goes from music videos that makes fun of old VHS style filmmaking, Back to the Future dance parties and each sequence is a joy to look at.
The film does tend to get slow at parts and a lot of the story elements are predictable. It follows a lot of formulas that you do see in any coming of age story set in high school, most especially Pretty in Pink. Though you can see things coming a mile away, you’re really in for the ride and it is enjoyable from beginning to end. It may be a long film, but the majority of it goes by very quickly. So when the film reaches it’s satisfying conclusion you sort of want to see what more adventures ensue for Conor and Raphina. Yeah I’m saying it, I want to see a sequel to Sing Street.
With a killer soundtrack that satirizes the music of the 80s and fleshed out relatable characters with depth, Sing Street is a magnificent coming of age film from John Carney perfectly connects music to beauty of life.