“Sing Street” (2016)
Running Time: 106 minutes
Director: John Carney
Featuring: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Aiden Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jack Reynor, Lucy Boynton
Brendan: No girl can ever truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins.
Inspired by semi-autobiographical experiences of the director John Carney “Sing Street” is possibly his best and most ambitious film to date, and narratively his most successful. Carneys previous and most well-known efforts are the excellent “Once” (2010) and the star studded “Begin Again” (2014) share some of the DNA of “Sing Street” but the personality of all of the characters shine through much more than the previous two films. This probably has something to do with the setting – 1980s Dublin – the characters _ expertly played by mostly unknowns – and the story – which whilst being not original has a narrative that pushes it along at such a pace that you are dragged along with it.
The story is about (mostly) unrequited love and opportunity in an Ireland hit by Thatcherism politics and a family that is suffering on all fronts as it tries to get to grip with changes that are largely perceived as uncontrollable. It would be easy to see each person in the film as victims but right from the beginning you can tell this is going to be a uniquely Irish story that has international appeal and understandability.
Cosmo (Walsh-Peelo) is starting a new school because his Dad (Gillen) has lost his job and he is unable to find a employment elsewhere so the youngest of three which includes his brother Brendan (Reynor) and sister Ann (Thornton) is the one to suffer. Upon starting school he falls in love from a distance with Raphina (Boynton) who lives in a girls home across from the school and who dreams of being a model. Unsure what to sat Cosmo says he is in a band and they are shooting a video and need a model, would she be interested? Of course now he needs a band and off the story goes. It is undeniably charming and with the help of hos friends and his brother he sets of to write music in the popular genres of the day. We see him try out new styles of clothes and music, get on side with the school bully and even headline the school dance.
Not to give any more away would be spoiling an excellent film that uses the music of the 80s to influence the school band and to highlight some pretty terrific music. What is refreshing is the original music by the band that borrows heavily from the genres of the day to deliver some personal feelings from Cosmo to the girl he loves.
There are some standout performances and the one that stands out is the supporting role of Cosmo’s brother Brendan someone who is haunted by his own failings and lack of courage – Reynor plays the part so well that you never really feel sorry for him and you hope he has the same kind of revelation Cosmo has at the end of the film. Newcomers Walsh-Peelo and Boynton are excellent as well and the steady hand of veteran Aiden Gillan steers the ship as the conflicted father figure.
I can say I recommend this to all audiences and once again another film from the UK that is just excellent and what we have come to expect from them in the low budget range that is sorely being missed from theatres in the US. They could learn a thing or two.