Cert: 12A / 106 mins / Dir. John Carney / Trailer
Now, usually when I read the words "feel good" or "life affirming" on a poster it gets my back right up, actually making me take against a film before I've even sat down to watch it. And although the promo-material for Sing Street does indeed have this, I actually saw the trailer first, so I'd already been reeled in by that point. The short version is that this film is feel-good and is life-affirming. And if an old cynic like me can enjoy those things, it must be doing something right.
Set in Dublin in 1985, the film follows Conor, a shy and insecure 15yr old moved to a rougher school than he's used to during his parents' separation. Feeling adrift, he forms a band with fellow geek Eamon in an attempt to impress a girl, Raphina, who hangs around outside the school gates. The story then charts the bands's progress over the course of a year as they write and record songs and shoot videos, leading up to a gig at the end-of-term disco, where maybe… just maybe Conor can get the girl...
You're right, it sounds insufferably twee, but while many words will be written comparing Sing Street to other films set against the same template (it's an unashamed hybrid of School of Rock and The Commitments), this film has more in common with coming-of-age tales than musical flicks (although it's not a 'musical'). It also stands to the film's credit that so many original songs are in its soundtrack, and the band's compositions far outshine the period-tracks. The music in this film is a catalyst, almost a character in its own right, rather than just a device to sell retro compilation albums.
The main credit has to go to an amazing cast, headed up by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton as Conor and Raphina respectively. But while they're certainly the focus of the story, the rest of the band get their moments to shine, and it warms my heart to see a bunch of kids playing on-screen that can clearly play their instruments properly. And although the story cruises towards its 'prom night' ending, it deftly avoids almost every music-film-cliche along the way*1, and ends with more confidence and optimism than it began, but still a note of uncertainty.
Sing Street probably isn't a perfect film, but it's perfect to me. I laughed, I cried, I came home and bought the soundtrack. It represents that time in our lives when hope outweighed experience and creating the good things was more important to us than staving off the bad. Quite often, you don't realise you were having an adventure until after the dust has settled. Sing Street is that adventure.
God, I'm middle-aged.
Anyway, film of the year. There, I said it.
The Way, Way Back, Perks of Being A Wallflower.
You should watch this as soon as you can.
Well it's certainly better than John Carney's previous musical outing, yeah.
Level 2: Well, Jack Reynor's in this and he was almost Han Solo, but let's go for an actual link in saying that Aiden Gillen's in this too, and he's in that Game Of Thrones along with Gwendoline 'Phasma' Christie (among others).
*1 Although the mysteriously-unexplained points range from 1) How come a school strict enough to enforce a black-shoe policy lets the same kids swan in with powder-blue 'New Romantic' jackets a couple of months later, to 2) We see the kids storyboarding and recording their music videos on a VHS-camera, but what equipment are they using to edit them together? This is meant to be a hard-up neighbourhood, and of course 3) As great as it is to see the band rehearsing in the living room (and actually playing their instruments as previously noted), they've got a live drum-kit in there and nowhere near the amplification for everything else to keep up with it. Oh, and 4) Conor's older, worldly-wise, art-school-dropout brother playfully disdains Phil Collins as being un-cool, but in the same act gushes over 'Gold' era Spandau Ballet and Hall & Oates. Y'know, like no-one else, ever. Although points like these didn't de-rail the film one iota for me, somehow.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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