Director John Carney (Begin Again) takes us to 1980s Dublin with Sing Street that he wrote and directed himself, based on his childhood experiences in Ireland. Seen through the perspective of a fourteen year-old boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh Peelo), Sing Street is about boy who forms a band to impress a girl. But it’s also about a teenager who is looking for an “out” from a home broken by his parents’ dysfunctional marriage as well hardships, where his parents are struggling to make ends meet. All this is happening while Conor is trying to adjust to his new inner-Dublin public school where the kids are rough, as well as the teachers. He finds a light at the end of the tunnel when he spies the beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), with the aim of winning her heart by asking her to star in his band’s music videos.
Movies about young teenagers forming bands are renowned for being thoroughly enjoyable, more so than many other genres, might I add? Sing Street follows this tradition. John Carney has created a movie reminiscent of his movie, Once, and it’s truly something special. It’s a story about a bible-bashing school in 1980s Dublin that has declined the progress of the outside world, well at least its headteacher has. A few of its pupils form a band, though one member has insane levels of wordsmithness, musicianship and homemade music video skills, inspired by the sacred stateliness of 80s group, Duran Duran!
It’s a musical drama-comedy about idealism, aspiration and that “musician getting the girl” ideology. It rides the bar lines of thinking that being in band is a get rich quick scheme. Though, it shows so aptly the trials and tribulation that any songwriter, poet or wordsmith goes through on a daily basis. Even when you’re happy, you’re sad and when you’re sad, you’re trying to be happy and failing epically. “Your problem is that you’re not happy when you’re sad” says Raphina. But when you write a sad song or poem, you take on the feelings of the said song or poem. Hence the cycle of emotions that are taken on by many artists who are in the writing profession.
Conor is encircled by role models that represent male non-fulfillment. His older brother (by some years) Brendan, (Jack Reynor) is a weed-smoking college dropout with an outstanding musical taste who tries to educate Conor on a good music by giving albums by Joe Jackson and the Cure to christen his teenage ears with. His father, Robert (Aidan Gillen) is an always-angry, sad man, burdened by the failure of his nuptials to Penny (Mariah Doyle Kennedy). Simultaneously, Conor’s nerdy sister Ann (Kelly Thornton) is irritated at having to do her homework whilst Conor and his band are playing their music.
Expectedly, Robert announces that the family’s deteriorating money means that Conor must move from his private school to a state school. It’s a horrible school with the motto “Viriliter Age” which basically means “Let’s Rape Our Students”. This is pretty accurate to be fair, as we see with Conor in a near situation of this nature on his first day by the local bully. The establishment is run by brutish, abusive and impure Christian, Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley). To escape this nightmarish hell, Conor forms a band and subsequently falls in love with Raphina (Lucy Boynton) from the girls’ orphanage next-door and for whom he writes a romantic song, The Riddle Of The Model.