Title: Sing Street
Country: Ireland, UK, USA
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance
Director/Writer: John Carney
Cinematography: Yaron Orbach
Maria Doyle Kennedy
After BEGIN AGAIN (2013), his Manhattan sortie with Hollywood named stars, Irish music aficionado John Carney’s latest flick regresses to his native territory in the spirit of ONCE (2006), SING STREET casts a cohort of teenagers against the retro milieu of Dublin in the mid-80s, friskily encapsulates the music ambience of that epoch (featuring hits from THE CURE, A-HA, DURAN DURAN, SPANDAU BALLET, THE CLASH etc.), which potently lures those who are in his age group into the realm of nostalgia and reminiscence; on the other hand, its central coming-of-age-and-puppy-love plot and high-school band rebellion can vicariously connect with younger Generation Z viewers. That is a win-win stratagem.
SING STREET, is the name of the teen band found by the high-schooler Conor Lalor (Walsh-Peelo), a 15-year-old boy who has just been transferred to a free Christian Brothers state-school on the Synge Street due to his family’s economic restraint, a microcosm of the doldrums smothering the whole country at then. At home, his parents Robert (Gillen) and Penny (Kennedy) constantly rattle each other’s cages, and his hemp-incensed big brother Brendan (Reynor, who tends to chew the scenery whenever sharing the same frame with his greener co-star) presciently tells him their marriage is hanging by a thread. At school, Conor is picked on by bully Barry (Kenny) and clashes with Brother Baxtor (Wycherley), the atrocious school principal. The reality sucks, (at one time, one character virtually calls Dublin a shithole), the only vent for Conor is music until he meets his muse Raphina (Boynton, a bliss for a not-so-likeable character), an attractive model-to-be who is one year older than him, but thanks to the obsolete makeup and get-up of that period, hardly she and Conor seem to belong to the same age bracket prima facie. Jumping on the bandwagon of all-the-rage music videos, Conor takes the initiative to form a band, recruited Eamon (Kenna), a multi-instrumentalist (who definitely needs a movie of his own) among others, so as to ask Raphina to star in their videos. Raphina is intrigued for the invitation, but like many an Irish folk at that time, London is the holy land for her, not here in Dublin, the video-shooting is just some pastime before her impending departure (with her adult boyfriend who promises her a bright future in London), and Conor knows it very well, he is prepared for the disappointment but love is love, especially the very first crush, how can a boy resist that beautiful feeling?
The film’s forte, indeed, derives from Carney’s unsentimental angle of inducing a piquant benevolence and sincerity when deciphering the pre-adolescent vagaries of moods in the sometimes harsh, sometimes unpleasant, sometimes delightful reality, and his refusal of padding out the garden-variety narrative with hokum dialogues and feel-good bells-and-whistles (as used in most similar themed pictures). Everything goes pretty much as we expect (bar the impulsive ending), but there is also a can-do vibe pulsating along with the story’s frolicking teen spirits, where ingenuousness and defiance are melded together to leaven the film to be more relatable (also ascribed to the deft job from cosmetics section). Bloating ego, showbiz swagger, internal conflicts, demerits would imaginably stem from the scenario have no access to taint the kids’ revelry, although, in my case, the band’s largely original punk-pop tunes are too nondescript for my tone-deaf ears. Finally, its semi-fantasy, semi-reality coda, speaks volumes of Carney’s tendresse towards his young protagonists – dare to love, dare to dream and dare to fight for one’s dream, which rounds off this retro-inspiring crowd-pleaser with a substantial leap of artistic license – a beacon of prowess in film-making.