Tales of love, life and music are nothing new for writer and director John Carney. Best known for Once, a modern indie musical, where a man and a woman connect over their mutual love of music to write, collaborate, and explore love over the course of one fateful week, Carney stays close to his comfort zone with Sing Street. Set on the streets of Dublin in 1985, the film introduces us to 15 year old Connor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) as he struggles to find a sense of control and autonomy in an otherwise dreary teenage landscape. For Connor 1980’s Dublin is not a kind place. His parent’s relationship is strained under the constant pressure of economic hardship. He’s bullied and abused not only by classmates at his all boys’ Catholic school but also by its villainous headmaster, who could have been ripped directly from the lyrics of “The Headmaster Ritual” by The Smiths. But everything changes the day he crosses paths with the rebellious and too cool Raphina (Lucy Boynton), finding himself completely smitten. Before he knows it he’s offered her the starring role in his band’s music video. The only problem is that there is no video, because there is no band. But Connor won’t let that stand in his way. Enlisting the help of his friends to form a band and with his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) instructing him in all things rock and roll, he embarks on a musical quest to get the girl, find a way out of the stagnation of his life in Dublin, and find out who he really is in the process.
Carney’s depiction of Dublin in the mid 1980’s is dreary, a city bathed in a constant fog and sense of entrapment. The film’s color palate and cinematography paint not quite a grayscale dystopia, but refuse to showcase the Irish city in a brushstroke of oversaturated greens and picturesque landscapes, focusing instead on the concrete and slate neighborhoods of the citys’ working and lower classes. It imbues the hope and optimism of youthful dreams into the city’s disenchanted streets. A large part of its successes in combining these elements has to do with the strength of the performances by the young actors in the film.
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, who plays Conner, is superb in his ability to present a loveable, awkward, insecure, yet hopeful character reflective of our own experiences as adolescents. Lucy Boynton, who plays love interest Raphina, takes a character that starts as more of a stand in for a concept and through a convincing performance, manages to bring a sense of realism and relatability to her. Additionally, the actors that make up the rest of Connor’s rag tag group of wannabe rock stars hold their own despite the underdevelopment of their characters and each succeed in infusing said characters with their own amiable personalities and quirks.
Sing Street is a film that happens to be right up my alley. Heavily influenced by bands and music that originated in the UK in the 1980’s and boasting an impressive mini catalogue of original songs produced for the film, this will no doubt be one of my favorite soundtracks of the year. There’s a certain identity and tone to the kind of music that the film references and draws influence from and fans of bands like The Smiths, The Cure, The Jam, etc. will no doubt find something in the film to identify with. The film also offers a more universal appeal within its themes. What it does exceptionally well is capture the commonality of that moment in adolescence when pessimism and optimism exist in the same space. When the world around you seems oppressively inescapable at the same time that it seems wide open to new possibilities and experiences. It speaks to the desire to want to escape your own existence and start over somewhere new, all while navigating the confusing landscape of identity. Sure it’s a little too sappy sometimes and a little unrealistic at others, but it’s a great synthesizer driven coming of age musical fantasy. The world could use more of those.
|Sing Street (2016)|
|Studio:||The Weinstein Company|
|Release Date:||April 15th, 2016|