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Sing Street – Movie Review

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Sing Street – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

Three films in, John Carney has established himself as a director of very specific films about young people connecting through the power of music. Sing Street features his youngest set of characters yet and creates what is ultimately a love letter to the 1980’s music scene. While rife with clichés, Carney manages to somehow make those work. The spirited cast and lightweight tone play a role in the film being a charmer with likeable personalities and enjoyable songs. It also presents a time capsule to Ireland in 1985 and providing enough historical context to ease one into the period.

The film immediately pulls one into the household of this lower class family and their dilemma. From there, Carney takes lead character Cosmo into a new environment and some situations that while feeling ripped out of Tom Brown’s School Days, fit into the 1980’s setting. Impressing in his film debut, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo makes him determined and likeable and it’s difficult not to root for him in this heavily controlled school. Even as Sing Street digs into his fantasies, they mesh well with the real world problems he encounters. The priest in charge of the Catholic School is the typical antagonist of this sort of film with his strict rules and ideals, but Carney primarily uses him to comment on Irish society of the day. The bully antagonist is also simply written, but the script still manages to develop him a bit.

Cosmo’s relationship with aspiring model Raphina is sweetly written and both share a genuine chemistry. The screenplay does not try to push the viewer into rooting for the two to enter a romantic relationship, but their platonic friendship is one where eventual love does not feel forced. The heartbreak that comes from both of their home lives is handled with the right sincerity and care. There’s an optimistic glow surrounding the film even when the plot is at its lowest point. Carney captures the 1980’s extraordinarily well, especially when Cosmo’s band starts recording their music videos. The influence from singers of the day is felt and the clothes and hairstyles also feel authentic.

One of the best elements of Carney’s previous film Begin Again was the soundtrack, featuring mostly original songs. He continues that here with new songs that feel lifted from the ‘80s. Carney co-wrote the songs and they feel like tunes he himself might have written when he was a pre-teen in 1985. They’re memorable and catchy and the soundtrack would certainly be a decent addition to anyone’s vinyl collection. The entirety of Sing Street does lend a lot to nostalgia, but the film does not overdo that aspect and lets our connection to the characters make us emotionally invested in the story.

Sing Street has a genuine warmness and good heartedness about it that makes it easy to forgive the clichés. John Carney seems to know his way around sweetly told stories that thankfully never fall into syrupy sentimentality. Sing Street should resonate with any young person who has dreamt of forming a band and writing music. Even though technology has evolved since 1985, the same feeling one gets from collaborating with friends and falling in love with the girl next door likely still resonates. This is the appropriate companion piece to switching on an LP player and blasting “Run with Us” and “We Built This City.”

Stefan Ellison

The Scene