Irish director John Carney (Once, Begin Again) has made yet another fine movie centered around music with Sing Street, a semi-autobiographical tale of his growing up in Ireland in the 1980s. Well, a wish-fulfillment version, anyway, as he puts it in an interview, one with well-realized characterizations and some wonderfully, ebulliently poppy, hard-to-get-out-of-your-head songs.
Set in Ireland in 1985, it follows a Dublin teen (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) as he endures the decline of his parents’ (Aidan Gillen & Maria Doyle Kennedy) marriage and the family’s fiscal problems, including his being transferred to a free-state school. There he meets Raphina (Lucy Boynton), whom he recruits for his band’s music video. One problem: there’s no band, which he sets about rectifying.
Though the initial idea is that Walsh-Peelo starts a band to get a girl, the main maxim is how music changes his life for the better. He finds some mates in the fellow boys he recruits for the band (each of whom Carney makes amusing and interesting), turns around a bully situation, discovers confidence (and a calling), and, yes, his doing the band thing definitely impresses the girl.
Carney pulls some terrific, genuine performances from a number of people here, starting with Walsh-Peelo, who proves a real find. He both perfectly embodies awkward early teenagedom and convinces us he could get a girl like Boynton to fall for him. Boynton herself skillfully shows her parent-less teen hiding some touching vulnerability under a layer of sweet toughness.
The most interesting character, though, would have to be Walsh-Peelo’s older brother, splendidly rendered by Jack Reynor (Transformers: Age of Extinction). A stoner and college dropout with long hair, he amusingly provides Walsh-Peelo with brotherly encouragement, including tutoring him in what kind of music will get the girl, while harboring some regrets about his own life decisions.
Musically, while Carney peppers the soundtrack with excellent era-appropriate songs by The Clash, Duran Duran, The Cure and Spandau Ballet, he and former Danny Wilson singer Gary Clark also craft a number of original, incredibly catchy tunes for Walsh-Peelo and company to perform. One he turns into a full-fledged production number set in the school gym. It’ll leave you smiling. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 7/26/16