Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.
Release Date: April 15th, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: John Carney Actors: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Jack Reynor, Kelly Thornton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Aidan Gillen, Ian Kenny, Ben Carolan, Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka, Lucy Boynton
f we didn’t share a mortgage, I’d leave you!” screams Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy) to her husband Robert (Aidan Gillen). This nasty comment is then appropriated as lyrics by teenage son Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), who has a passion for playing the guitar and making up songs. The familial discontent is just part of a downbeat routine, accompanied by his unaccomplished, sarcastic but supportive brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) and his studious sister Ann (Kelly Thornton), who each have their own issues with which to contend. Mounting pressures from economic tightness and low income potential (the film is set in Dublin in 1985) force Conor’s parents to transfer the boy from one school to another to make some budget cuts – resulting in his placement at Synge Street.
This new school is particularly rough. The headmaster insists upon black footwear, compelling Conor to go shoeless until he complies; a bully (Ian Kenny) picks fights and steals his food, as observing adults fail to suppress cruelties and misbehaviors; and everyone smokes, while the priest who teaches swigs some liquor before class. But Conor finds a friend in Darren (Ben Carolan) and Eamon (Mark McKenna), who offer to manage and play guitar, respectively, in a band formed primarily to attract the attention of one-year-older girl and aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton). And when they recruit keyboardist Ngig (Percy Chamburuka) and a drummer and bassist combo, their band, dubbed “Sing Street,” is complete.
“It’s all about the girl.” As Conor tries to make music – only somewhat ostensibly to foster a romance – genuine creativity and good vibes are crafted. As an “exercise in imagination,” the fledgling group encounters costuming conundrums, music video mishaps, rock-move slapstick, and plenty of other humorous scenarios, all with the intention of filming incredibly low-budget tapes for potential fame (no matter how limited). And Conor transforms his hairstyle and look as varying inspirations take hold (rebelling against the rules, especially religious establishments), shedding light on the ways in which peers, role models, and tumultuous adolescence shape not only his general attitude but also his lyrics. His identity eventually becomes the realization – and revealing – of a talent that might not have come to fruition had it not been for the powerful muse of a young woman.
And this unearthed artistry presents a salvation and an escape from the misery of a poor school, parental vexation, and the persuasions of bitter disappointment at failed potential (for both Brendan and Raphina). The result is entirely magical, awkward yet sweet, and brimming with heart. An ingenious script perfected by natural performances culminates in a momentous, joyous celebration of music, fantasy, and the wild, often overwhelming reality of growing up. It’s also much more intelligent and mature than its youthful cast would suggest, exhibiting redemption and resolutions that, while familiarly pieced together from other pictures, is assembled so upliftingly that it’s impossible not to be won over. Plus, the music is fantastic.
– Mike Massie