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Sing Street – review by Calum Maclean

sing street

Sing Street
Written and Directed by John Carney
Cast – Ferdia Walsh–Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aiden Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Don Wycherley, Ben Carolan, Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka, Conor Hamilton, Kelly Thornton, Karl Rice, Ian Kenny and Lydia McGuiness
Running time 105 minutes

There is a moment in John Carney’s Sing Street where one character tells another “Your problem is that you’re not happy being sad”.  That line perfectly captures the spirit and tone of this hugely enjoyable film as it explores teenage love, family, friendship, ambition and the healing powers of a perfect pop song.   

     Set in 1985 Dublin, Sing Street tells the story of fifteen year old Conor as he is transferred to a new school run by the repressive Christian Brothers.  Immediately singled out for his comparatively posh background and lack of black footwear, Conor is lifted out of his misery by the sight of Raphina, a mysterious older girl who describes herself as a model.  Seizing the opportunity to spend time with her, Conor offers her a part in a music video for his non-existent band, then quickly forms one with an assembly of misfits, leading to an awakening of creativity surrounded by tensions within his family.   

    I can’t recommend this film highly enough.  Fans of Carney’s previous work will recognise certain welcome tropes like heartache, songwriting, musical night walks, a brilliant soundtrack and a willingness to embrace fairy tale.  However, with its mid-eighties setting and young cast, these qualities seem even more natural and fit seamlessly with the emotional perspective of the characters.

     As Conor, newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo makes a compelling hero, displaying sensitivity and understated comic timing as we watch his growing confidence, while Lucy Boynton brings fragile charisma and melancholy to Raphina.  As Conor’s older brother Brendan, Jack Reynor gives a scene stealing performance as a young man adrift and living vicariously through his sibling, with his character arc equalling the romance in its significance to the story.  Really the entire cast is excellent, from Conor’s band members and warring parents to the abusive Brother Baxter, and everyone is given a moment to shine through witty and poignant dialogue.

     Aside from the performances and great use of setting, the film’s soundtrack is key to its success.  Featuring music by Duran Duran, The Cure, The Jam and many others, the songs drive the various evolutions of the band’s style as they adapt the hits to create their own.  These original songs produced by Sing Street are infectiously catchy and nicely express the central themes of love and brotherhood, with scenes capturing the excitement of an initial idea developing into something truly special.

     Sing Street is currently showing in cinemas, including the GFT.  Catch it while you can, it will make you happy and sad in the very best way.

Calum Maclean, 23 May, 2016.

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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