SING STREET, written and directed by mastermind John Carney, is easily one of the best movies I have seen so far this year. Although the film received a massive amount of hype and positive reviews when it premiered at Sundance this year, I wasn’t able to catch it at the Festival. Thankfully, it only took a few months for it to come to theaters and believe me, the wait was worth it.
Can John Carney make a bad movie? SING STREET marks his third hit movie in a row, following ONCE and BEGIN AGAIN. Once again (no pun intended), Carney creates a feel-good movie with likable characters, a relatable script, and of course, catchy original music. In SING STREET, Carney ups the ante even more, adding a healthy dose of 80s nostalgia. And as he did in ONCE, Carney again has used a relatively unknown cast to create magic. Every character in the film feels like actual people you could encounter walking down the streets of Dublin. So much so, it seems every character, even the school bully, is multi-dimensional with a distinct arc.
From set design to wardrobe, hair, and music (including songs from Duran Duran and Genesis), this film will transport you back into mid-1980s Dublin. After his parents (Maria Doyle Kennedy and Aidan Gillen) start having financial and marital problems, fifteen-year-old Connor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is pulled out of his private school and put into the more affordable Synge Street Christian Brothers School. But it’s going to take some time for Connor to adjust to his new settings, especially since he has to deal with the school bully Barry and dictatorial headmaster Brother Baxter. When he meets a beautiful older girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who frequently stands across the street from the school smoking cigarettes, Connor decides to start his own band to impress her. After all, Raphina is an aspiring model and he hopes she will star in the band’s music video.
Connor and his musically savvy friend Eamon (Mark McKenna) and sidekick Darren (Ben Carolan) quickly assemble a ragtag group of classmates to form their band “Sing Street”. At first, Connor seems to be going the cover band route, but after some guidance from his music-obsessed older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), Connor and Eamon start writing their own original music. But will all of Connor’s hard work be enough to win Raphina’s heart, or at the least get her attention?
Apart from the music, what I liked most about the film is Carney’s ability to broach difficult subjects without being melodramatic or spelling situations out for audiences. Instead of having drawn-out conversations about the characters’ run-ins with abuse and addiction, it is handled in a more realistic way. Carney uses subtext, observation, and yes, a few quick lines of dialogue to illustrate difficult moments in the characters’ lives. And behind these brief flashes of pain, the story is rife with hopefulness, right down to the last shot of the film.
SING STREET appeals to any demographic and I can’t recommend you see this movie enough. I wasn’t going to review a movie this week, but after seeing this gem, I knew I had to put a few of my thoughts into a review. There is little doubt in my mind that you will leave the theater with anything other than a smile on your face and “Drive It Like You Stole It” playing over and over in your head. “This is your life, you can go anywhere…”
My Review: A