by: S. Scott Stanikmas – Senior Staff Writer
Director John Carney is making a name for himself with wonderful and heartfelt films that feature some of the best music ever written for the big screen. With notable movies like Once and Begin Again under his belt the filmmaker is ready to add his best one yet to that list with the Irish coming-of-age tale Sing Street.
When his family hits hard times in 1985, young Conor Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) finds out that his parents are transferring him from his current school to one a bit more in their price range. The youngest of the three Lalor children will now be attending Synge Street for his education.
Conor can’t seem to catch a break. Whether it’s attracting the attention of one of the school’s worst bullies or getting on the bad side of the headmaster for not adhering to the the dress code (even though he explained that it wasn’t monetarily feasible for him to get new shoes), this kid is striking out on all attempts. But what this change does do is bring him into contact with another outcast at the school and introduce him to a young woman (Lucy Boynton) whom he becomes quite taken by.
Trying to impress her, Conor tells her he needs a model for a video his band is shooting. There’s just one major problem – Conor doesn’t have a band yet! So he sets out to create a band in order to make good on his need for her services. But the young man soon finds that while he used to play around with music for fun he has a real knack for it.
Now part of an ensemble of young men whom share a mutual love of music (and what would seem to be a natural affinity for being outsiders), Conor finds himself trying to find out who he is through the music that he creates.
While Sing Street hits a lot of the familiar beats of a coming-of-age / boy-looking-to-impress-the-girl type of story not once does it feel tired or played out. Carney doesn’t let his actors fall into the usual tropes these films get bogged down with. It might have something to do with the cast of unknowns playing the leads (Jack Reynor who plays Conor’s older brother/mentor is primed for stardom, having appeared in Transformers: Age of Extinction and rumored to be the frontrunner to play Han Solo) as they all bring a fresh energy and exuberance to their roles. And even though the other bandmates don’t get fleshed out as much as they could (this is Conor’s story after all) they feel real and it’s the truthfulness of their performances that shines through.
If there’s one thing pretty much everyone can relate to it would be the awkwardness of adolescence and trying to find out who we are and where we fit in in life. This film captures that essence perfectly with Conor’s constant changing of his style of dress and what types of songs he writes. He’s just a confused kid going through some tough times at home, at school and with the supposed girl of his dreams. All he wants is to find out where he fits in and I’m sure we all can empathize with him on that.
The music is as much a character as any of the physical actors on the screen. Evolving with the actors as they discover new musical influences, from Duran Duran to The Cure, the songs start out as pretty shallow and superficial but by the end I actually found myself tearing up with how deep and heartfelt they became. Carney, who also was responsible for the original music heard in the film, has a real knack for writing truly amazing songs for his films, as is evidenced by two nominations for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. If at least one of them doesn’t get nominated for an Oscar next year it will be a travesty.
Sing Street, while not a wholly original take on the genres it treads into, more than makes up for it’s few shortcomings in charm and stylish music (that I actually found myself tapping my foot along to more than a few times). It’s a film that takes the innocence of childhood and taking that next step into maturity and infuses it with real adult sensibilities.