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Sing Street – Review

 
 
Overview
 

Release Date: 20 May 2016
 
Director: John Carney
 
Writer: John Carney
 
Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo - Aidan Gillen - Maria Doyle Kennedy
 
Direction
 
 
 
 
 


 
Writing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Performance
 
 
 
 
 


 
Sound & Music
 
 
 
 
 


 
Cinematography
 
 
 
 
 


 
Editing
 
 
 
 
 


 
Visual Effects
 
 
 
 
 


 
Total Score
 
 
 
 
 
4/5


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1 total rating

 


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Posted May 17, 2016 by

 
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Sing Street Review:

Director John Carney follows his film-turned-stage-show, Once, and music industry romance, Begin Again, with this semi-autobiographical coming of age drama, set against a backdrop of economic depression in mid-1980s Dublin.

When Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is taken out of his nice, fee-paying school by his financially squeezed parents (Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) and made to attend the rough comprehensive, he turns to music to escape the harassment he endures from the school bully and the Christian Brothers running Synge Street.

Hand-picking a selection of fellow outcasts, Conor forms a band – Sing Street – and sets out to impress a local lass, the beautiful, too cool for school, and slightly older Raphina (a beguiling Lucy Boynton). Conor manages to secure her services as a model in his first music video, but there are obstacles on the path of true love, namely the fact that Raphina already has a boyfriend, and she’s planning to move to London imminently to seek her fortune.

Luckily for Conor, older brother, Brendan, a college drop out with a vast record collection and the kind of yogic insight which can only be attained by smoking equally vast amounts of pot, is on hand to guide him through the twins arts of songwriting and winning a girl’s heart.

Sing Street Review

As Conor negotiates heartache, disappointment, violence, and triumph, the band adopts a variety of styles. Conor’s constant desire to emulate the latest thing Brendan’s introduced him to, steeps the narrative in the eclectic aesthetic and sounds of the time. It is a comedic illustration of the insecurities and indecision we all face as teens, and also nicely illustrates the way in which our young personalities are shaped by the countless influences we encounter, be it a family member we look up to or a pop star we idolise.

While Sing Street is a lighthearted boy meets girl, boy forms band to impress girl, wish-fulfillment story on the surface, there are treacle-dark undercurrents and a grit which will inevitably draw comparison with films such as The Commitments and Killing Bono. Shiny, kitschy music video shoots and fantasy sequences serve to make these serious moments all the more unsettling. While much of the drama is explosive – Conor’s parents arguing, the usually easy-going Brendan’s bitter tirade against his younger brother, the sadistic Brother Baxter’s forcible removal of Conor’s make-up – it’s the quieter moments which really unnerve: Brother Baxter’s glassy-eyed insistence that Conor’s face is ‘pretty enough’ without the eyeliner and lip-gloss, and Raphina’s almost throw-away comment that she never understood why her dad bothered with her when her mother was much more attractive, hint at a community rife with sexual abuse, systematic corruption, and familial secrets. The notion that Conor’s parents only got married so that they could have church-sanctioned sex, and are now trapped in a loveless partnership (divorce was still illegal at this point) seems both ludicrously archaic and scarily recent to those of us over thirty five.

Conversely, the bleakness makes moments of hard-won victory all the sweeter. A mood pervades which Raphina terms ‘happy sad’, and which Conor comes to understand through the music of The Cure. Although the romantic love story is central, the relationships between Conor and Brendan, and between Conor and Eamon (an understated and brilliant Mark McKenna) provide some of the most poignant scenes of the movie. Brendan sees himself as something of a sacrificial lamb, a prototype. He is prepared to sideline his own hopes and dreams to pave the way for his brother’s success. Similarly, Eamon – the undeniable musical talent of the band – is happy to let Conor take centre stage. Indeed the film’s dedication to ‘brothers everywhere’ is a touching nod to the tender male alliances the film depicts so well.

It’s not perfect. Apart from Eamon, Conor’s band mates and manager are sidelined, and this is especially jarring in the case of Ngig (Percy Chamburuka), whose ‘tokenism’ is explicitly reference for laughs only for his character to become utterly marginalised for the rest of the movie. Other characters such as The Bully and The Abusive Boyfriend are too archetypal to be believable, and both Gillen and Doyle Kennedy are woefully underused.

Sing Street Cast

Sing Street looks beautiful, and the original songs (by Carney and Gary Clark) sit authentically alongside a soundtrack that includes Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, The Clash, and Hall & Oates. The cast of largely unknown young actors does a sterling job too. The final scene, in which Conor and Raphina head out across a stormy ocean in a tiny boat to pursue their dreams is perhaps a little difficult to swallow. But, reminiscent of Sandy and Danny flying away together at the end of Grease, and viewed alongside Conor’s fantasy of the perfect ‘50s prom, it is perhaps more symbolic of hope, of romance, of the power of self-belief, or even of death – either literal or figurative. Maybe Conor and Raphina are star-crossed lovers, doomed to perish in their bid for escape…After all, Sing Street may have you tapping your feet and smiling throughout, but the thread of melancholy lingers in the memory just as the catchy melodies do. This film, like life, is happy sad.

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Katie Young
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