Sing Street was a film that had managed to stay well off my film radar. It has no big name stars – with the possible exception of Game of Thrones‘ Aiden Gillen – it has no big name director, and it has not had much of a push in the media or at cinemas. In fact, before watching the film, I don’t think I even saw a trailer, despite having seen a number of films in recent weeks.
So while I was hoping this wouldn’t be a total waste of 105 minutes, I went in not really knowing what to expect from a presumably low-budget, indie film with a guitar wielding kid on the poster. It was therefore somewhat of a surprise when both Lionsgate and the Weinstein Company are both listed among the plethora of firms involved in the film at the very start during the excessively long preamble.
But both Lionsgate and the Weinstein company have had their fair share of misses as well as hits, so what is Sing Street?
The story follows Irish schoolboy Conor and his attempts to deal with family life, moving to a new school, and learning growing up. Here is the official plot synopsis and trailer:
SING STREET takes us back to 1980s Dublin seen through the eyes of a 14-year-old boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who is looking for a break from a home strained by his parents’ relationship and money troubles, while trying to adjust to his new inner-city public school where the kids are rough and the teachers are rougher. He finds a glimmer of hope in the mysterious, über-cool and beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and with the aim of winning her heart he invites her to star in his band’s music videos. There’s only one problem: he’s not part of a band…yet. She agrees, and now Conor must deliver what he’s promised – calling himself “Cosmo” and immersing himself in the vibrant rock music trends of the decade, he forms a band with a few lads, and the group pours their heart into writing lyrics and shooting videos. Inspired by writer/director John Carney’s (ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN) life and love for music, SING STREET shows us a world where music has the power to take us away from the turmoil of everyday life and transform us into something greater.
Sing Street Verdict:
While not without faults, Sing Street is a surprisingly engaging and enjoyable film.
It manages to interweave humour and pathos throughout. While the plot is somewhat formulaic and pacing slightly uneven at times, the performances really hold the film together and turn what could easily have been a somewhat generic musical coming of age movie into something much more evocative and enduring.
Sing Street covers numerous threads of the same story around Ferdia Walsh-Peelo’s teenage Conor, and while I was less than enamoured with him at the start of the film, the development of his character is executed very well. Walsh-Peelo’s performance is also accompanied ably by his stoner, drop-out brother played by Jack Reynor who has a certain Seth Rogen lilt to his portrayal, as well as his friends and band-mates, with particular credit going to Mark McKenna for his portrayal of Eamon.
Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy also put in great performances as Conor’s parents as they battle through their relationship troubles, although they appear far too little on screen. And Don Wycherley also does a good job in capturing the overly authoritarian school principal Br. Baxter.
But it is Lucy Boynton’s performance as Raphina that really stands out. At first glance, she appears to be somewhat miscast as a late teen only slightly older than our main protagonists despite looking significantly older. This is not helped by the use of make-up which is used in the film in a deliberate attempt to make her look older, but despite this, her performance makes this evident age-gap much less of a concern as we are drawn into her character. The outward confidence and underlying vulnerability
The music that accompanies the film and forms a key part of the plot was also a pleasant surprise. The songs never feel forced, but rather complement the character development onscreen with both existing 80s music and Conor’s band’s songs working well. I imagine the soundtrack will particularly appeal to fans of 80s music. But even for those of us without first-hand knowledge and of the 1980s and its music, it makes a well-thought out accompaniment and really adds to the on-screen experience.
While the plot of the film isn’t unique or new, it makes for an enjoyable and at times, surprisingly moving watch. Sing Street is surprisingly effect in blending lightweight humour and melancholia that engages with the audience on an emotional level I was certainly not expecting.
The musical accompaniments offer a light and fluffy pop façade while also evoking an underlying dolefulness that gives more depth to the film. Many of the main developments of the film are entirely predictable, and yet are none the less impactful and engaging for that.
It is certainly not a film that strives to teach the viewer a lesson, or explore all the various melancholic elements it touches upon. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Instead it allows the viewer to explore happiness and sadness, their own lives and emotions as well as those of the characters on screen. The performances are engaging, the music compliments the story without ever overwhelming it, and in the end, the film is enjoyable despite, or perhaps because of its underlying pathos.