Start a band. Score chicks. Live your life. Be cool forever.
Growing up in Dublin during the 80’s can be a pretty rough time, especially if you’re Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). Conor doesn’t look as tough, or nearly as masculine as the other boys, so he’s constantly teased and messed with for that reason; his parents are on the brink of divorce; and his older brother (Jack Reynor), when he isn’t spouting witticisms about rock ‘n roll, sits around the house, smoking. Conor doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life, until he meets the vivacious and lovely Raphina (Lucy Boynton), an older, but totally cool chick. While Conor doesn’t know if he has a chance or not, he decides to find some buddies, start a band, and start making music videos, considering that it’s the thing to do around that time when people like Phil Collins and Duran Duran were owning the airwaves with these pieces of art to accompany their music. Of course, he wants Raphina to be in the video, which she’s more than happy with, but also doesn’t want to lead Conor, because after all, she has a boyfriend and he’s very confused about what he wants in life. However, it’s the music that gives him an idea and help him through even the roughest and toughest times in his teen life.
With Once, it was interesting to see how writer/director John Carney was able to carve-out a musical, out of realistic situations. Budding musicians would meet on the streets, or in stores, sing songs about heartbreak, love, life and all that good stuff, and because the music was so strong, the singers were so good, and the lyrics were so heartfelt, it didn’t matter how cheesy it would be. In the world that Carney makes, you believe it because it is at least based in some form of reality that, yeah, even if people do walk around, singing to one another, it’s still at least somewhat believable, and, believe it or not, lovely to listen to.
With Begin Again, Carney sort of lost himself a bit. While the cast and the music was strong, the movie itself was so sentimental and sappy at times, that I wondered if I was watching a Spielberg flick. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fine movie that I much enjoyed listening to afterwards (Adam Levine’s songs were pretty great), but it was placed in such a fictional and almost incredibly unrealistic world that it was sometimes too hard for me to take seriously. The gritty, raw and heartfelt position he took with Once, was somehow lost in the wind, only to have cheesy Hollywood sentimentality take over.
However, with Sing Street, Carney somehow bounces back to the world he once knew and worked with, even if, yes, some things are a tad cheesy and unbelievable.
Most importantly though, you can tell that this is a story that’s close to Carney’s heart and soul. While it’s not known how much of this is autobiographical, you still get the sense that Carney is writing and portraying a time of his life that he looks back on with pleasantness, as well as some sadness. He misses feeling like a young teen who was absolutely willing and capable of taking on the whole world around him, regardless of if anybody wanted to listen to him in the first place.
Also, you get a sense that, through the songs, Carney is really working through all of the genres and styles that showed up and were the bee’s knees during the mid-to-late-80’s. Through Conor, we see him take on new wave, and punk, and soul, and even pop, to where he’s writing awfully catchy songs and coming up with even more inventive and neat music videos, some of which are so funny, entertaining and kitschy, that you can’t believe anybody would be able to make it all up, let alone a bunch of angsty teens.
But still, in the world of John Carney, it somehow works.
Not only do the songs work and are more than likely to get in your head, they also tell us more and more about this character that go past and beyond just him being sad, or mad, or lonely, or happy. We get a few dream-sequences in which Conor thinks about the life he wishes he had, especially when it comes to music, where everyone loves him, wants to be him, and most importantly, his family is all happy and back together again. However, at the same time, the sad realization of the real world kicks in and it’s sometimes heartbreaking to see his tender soul hurt and ruined, even if you get the general idea that’ll get better for a good-looking, incredibly talented 15-year-old such as himself.
After all, if he continues to write as good as songs as he’s been writing, he’ll be able to do anything he wants.
That’s why, as Conor, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo does a pretty solid job giving us a real, understandable teen who doesn’t always do or say the right things, and yes, may be definitely confused about what he wants with his life, but who isn’t at that age? When you’re 15, the only thing you want is to be heard, understood and respected amongst your peers and taken in as a adult, even if, you know full well that won’t happen. Conor’s the kind of protagonist in a story like this that we can all relate to and enjoy, even when it seems like he doesn’t have the full picture in his head. But that’s okay, because you know what? He’s 15-years-old and he’ll have plenty of time to make up his mind.
As for everybody else, they’re all pretty charming and lovely, too, even in Carney’s world of cuteness. Lucy Boynton is gorgeous, but also kind of sweet as the tortured and sad Raphina; Aidan Gillen plays Conor’s dad who may or may not be a dick, but always says what’s on his mind; and Jack Reynor, in an absolutely scene-stealing role as Conor’s older brother, gives us the kind of heart and soul a movie like this needed. Reynor comes in every so often, smoking weed or tobacco, says whatever’s on his mind and, occasionally, teaching Conor a life lesson that he can learn to live by and make better decisions with. However, the movie doesn’t overdo this character and it’s why, if anything in this movie does feel real, it’s him. He helps Conor become more of a man than anyone, or anything else in this movie, and he’s the kind of character that you could meet in real life, love and want to hang out with, time and time again.
Even if it is Jack Reynor and the dude is probably very busy and doesn’t have time to spend with you.
Consensus: Even if its set in a world of unrealistic proportions, Sing Street is still sweet, earnest, and heartfelt enough that it works as a lively, if immensely entertaining coming-of-ager, with great songs to back it all up.
8 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire