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Review: Sing Street – “A magnificent piece of filmmaking”


After the Oscar-winning Once (2007) and the underrated Begin Again (2013), Irish filmmaker John Carney outdoes himself with another story about love and music and the powerful bond between them. This time around he tells the semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale of a boy’s journey to discover his potential and find the courage to make the necessary yet scary leap towards forging his path in life.

Set in 1980s Dublin, Sing Street finds teenager Connor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) in the midst of turmoil at home as his parents can’t stop fighting, the family finances take a hit and he’s forced to transfer from a private school to a public one, Synge Street Christian Brothers School. A fish out of water, abused by the local bully and the headmaster priest, Connor finds solace and new friends in his passion for music.

Motivated by a love-at-first-sight crush on the enigmatic Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a beautiful (and older) girl who lives in a foster home across the street from the school, Connor recruits a group of nerdy school misfits to form a band in order to impress the girl of his dreams. Raphina claims to be a model, working on her portfolio and planning a move to London so Connor asks her to appear in his band’s video, even before he’s actually formed a band at all.

In search of identity both on a personal level and for his band, which gets aptly named Sing Street, Connor starts a crash course in cool bands influences, mentored by his older brother Brendan, an hysterically funny stoner played irresistibly by Jack Reynor. As the kids work on their original music, trying to find their voice, we witness their hilarious attempts at channeling different bands’ looks, from Duran Duran to The Cure and so forth.

Channeling a bit of Billy Elliott (2000) and The Commitments (1991), Sing Street is much more than just one thing and that’s what makes it terrific. As the moving dedication before credits roll hints at, this is a film inspired by a beautiful brotherly bond, which takes you on a heartwarmingly hopeful yet emotionally authentic journey. It’s a story of friendship, love, standing up for yourself, not being afraid of who you are and taking courage to follow your dreams even when everything is against you.

Carney, however, never misses a chance at finding humour in the drama and he does a great job at setting the tone on a thematic level and on a period level, using small but pivotal details to bring us back to Dublin in the 80s. The original songs written by Carney and Gary Clark are infectious, exhilarating and just plainly brilliant like the film itself. The musical side never overwhelms the storytelling though but rather complements it and perfectly blends in with the thematic thread.

The thoroughly Irish cast is simply outstanding from the established stars like Game Of Thrones’ Aidan Gillen or Orphan Black’s Maria Doyle Kennedy playing Connor’s parents all the way to the many young newcomers who show off great chemistry on screen. Ferdia Walsh-Pelo captures Connor’s innocence, romanticism and courage with nuanced skill for a first timer whilst his musical background emerges as well as a promising parallel career.

Carney admittedly left the kids free to often improvise and find the scenes, as he wanted to capture the energy and authenticity of that age. And he definitely succeeds at portraying not only that really well but also the incredible sense of wonder, excitement and fear of the future. The relationship between Connor and Brendan is central to the story as the boy’s older brother is way more sensitive and smarter underneath his clownish armour. He had to deal with his parents’ opposition in trying to follow his dreams of becoming a musician and eventually relaxed too much about his life plans but now he sees in Connor a way to make up for that.

The final scene of the film is an emotional crescendo I’d never spoil but needless to say it manages to convey the film’s message so beautifully and poetically it will haunt you for days. Carney has crafted a magnificent piece of filmmaking that deserves some love this awards season and the widest possible audience since it’s one of those films with an undeniable and much needed power to uplift and inspire.


Sing Street opens in the UK on 20th May 2016.


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