This is John Carney’s third musical outing, having directed the film turned successful musical Once and following up with Begin Again, this time we’re heading back to the 80s, specifically Dublin, Ireland. After being moved to a new school, Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) meets a girl and determined to win her affection, decides to impress her with his band, only that would require having one. What begins as a way to win over Raphina (Lucy Boynton) turns into something else entirely, and gives us a story of music, hope, sadness, struggles and just being a 15 year old boy in Ireland.
This film would be at a huge disadvantage without the fantastic choices of young actors, our lead and newcomer Walsh-Peelo does an utterly great job and gives the film a character for audiences to follow easily with his love-able, humorous and determined quality. Of course some of his behaviour is relatable to everyone who has once 15 and then there’s the aspects that are specific to being Irish living in Dublin but that in no way alienates any of the audience and allows things to really be seen from Conor’s perspective, rather than just a story in general. Then there’s the rest of the band of misfits, starting with love interest turned music video muse Raphina played by Boynton who is a joy to watch, she’s less of a newcomer having already had the opportunity to work with some legendary Brits such as Richard Griffiths, Victoria Wood and Julie Walters, but it will be highly surprising if this film doesn’t put her name a little more firmly on the map. Boynton may not be able to fully relate to being Irish, born in New York and grew up in London but regardless her performance is excellent, with a superb amount of emotion in what is not particularly a huge amount of dialogue. A lot of the humour from the film comes from the fellow band members, particularly Eamon played by Mark McKenna, another newcomer but with dead on delivery of lines, worthy of someone with much more experience. Lastly there’s the most recognisable of the young cast, Jack Reynor (What Richard Did, Glassland, Macbeth, Transformers: Age of Extinction), as Conor’s stoner older brother/mentor and another source of humour for the film and plenty of brotherly love.
Carney has already proved that he’s a master at making films that translate music through life in different stages, specifically love which is definitely present in Sing Street, but what makes this one different is how close to home it strikes our director. It’s easy to assume that a lot of what makes this film a great portrayal and such a relatable, honest yet fun story is its semi-autobiographical nature; Carney did attend Synge Street growing up in Dublin and did form a band in his early years. He also does a perfect job of portraying how fickle trends are with young people from anywhere and how easily influenced we are by popular culture. Of course there are still elements of the film that are somewhat romanticised but it needs that to make it fun and spontaneous, more than real life generally is, the majority of teenage bands are not always as good as they may believe. Carney has a certain skill as a film-maker that even in his film’s moments of struggle or sadness, there’s a quality to them that still holds out a hope, similar to a sense of everything will be fine even when it isn’t, which makes watching the film such a good experience. There’s an atmosphere to the whole film, not only the characters but the way that its shot and the quality of the writing to go from humour to serious moments without losing a beat, that makes it undeniably likeable.
Sing Street is a great story with outstanding young talent that will have you rooting for the band of misfits before the first chord is even struck. Carney has proved once again that he is a master of the music based Indie film, to not only succeed once but three times in a row is impressive to say the least but it is entirely true, this film is a success and once it hits screens throughout the UK, hopefully will be appreciated for the genuinely sweet, hopeful feel-good nod to the 80s that it is.