Sing Street (2016)

casey I remember thinking Sing Street was some kind of sappy Beatles origin knockoff in theaters, not really worth checking out. But in the intervening months, everything I heard about it was positive, and now I can confirm: it is excellent, one of my rock band movies ever.

brooke And fortunately for most readers, it’s on Netflix as of this posting!
Okay seriously though, I thought it was going to be a silly 80s movie, and while it looks a lot like The Breakfast Club or Pretty in Pink, it fits right in to our world today.

casey I defy you to watch it and not walk away happy.

brooke Sing Street is about Conor Lawlor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a 16 year old whose parents (Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy), struggling emotionally and financially, pull him out of his school to save money. They transfer him to Synge Street, a rough Catholic state school, which seems like a disaster from the first minute. But soon enough he makes a couple of friends, including a girl who lives across the street from the school, Raphina (Lucy Boynton). Looking for an excuse to hang out with her, Conor says he’s in a band that needs a model for their music video, then quickly enlists his friend Darren (Ben Carolan) and a number of other boys to form it.  Conor’s older, college drop-out brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) feeds him musical inspiration by night, and he’s soon writing new songs and trying new styles every week.
It’s hard not to go into a lot of detail because the movie has a lot of moving parts, but it managed to squeeze in a lot of story and characters without being overwhelming. The movie is mostly about Conor’s relationships to the boys at school, to Raphina, and to his family.

casey The 80s New Wave/Punk soundtrack is awesome, as are  the catchy originals. But Sing Street isn’t about a band trying to make it big, just some kids trying to make it in a rough school and a bad economy, and in Conor’s case with parents on the verge of separation. This all gives gravity to the story, but it’s also relegated mostly to the background. Even the school’s stern principle is less an omnipresent authority figure than another obstacle to occasionally navigate. So the stakes are always clear but never feel artificially heightened, and the way the characters interact is downright sweet.

brooke In a lot of ways, Sing Street is art imitating life. There can be a ton of terrible things happening, but individuals stories are smaller–music, crushes, friends…
One of my favorite characters is Brendan. He’s a bit of a slacker, but he’s brilliant and it feels like he’s hiding from his own problemsBut working with Conor gives him something to look forward to, and you can tell he loves watching his little brother delve into each new record as he offers suggestions for new songs and videos. By the end the band has enough material to put on a real concert and Conor has plucked up the courage to push the envelope in ways he never could have dreamed on his first day at Synge Street.

casey I think my favorite part about Sing Street is everything. I like Conor’s little acts of sartorial rebellion (“Why can’t men wear makeup?” he wants to know. “Mozart did!”) I like the cheesy but increasingly sophisticated videos the band produces. I like Raphina’s feigned worldliness as she struggles to figure out what she’d doing. And I love the prom themed number later in the film, which has been conveniently recut into a music video and trailer on Youtube.
Is the movie perfect? Well, some of the band members don’t get much attention , and the very last scene is a bit on the cheesy side. And…that’s all I’ve got.

brooke Yes, it’s cheesy, but I enjoyed the buildup to that moment. The whole movie points you towards the ending–not necessarily the riding off into the sunset (well, sunrise), but the lack of opportunity in Ireland makes it feel like the best thing that could happen to Conor. I won’t give away anymore than that.

casey I’ll buy that. Anyway I’d put Sing Street alongside Almost Famous in my favorite musical coming of age stories, which is close to the highest praise I can think of.


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