12A 106 MINS. DIRECTOR John Carney CAST Ferdia Walsh-peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor
When his family falls on hard times, Conor (Walsh-peelo) is moved from his fee-paying school to the local comp. In a bid to make friends, work out who he is and impress a girl, he starts a band. HERE’S AN expression used by Sing Street’s dorky hero to describe the music of The Cure: “happy sad”. Something that makes you feel a little dolorous, but in quite a bouncy way. The same description could be used for the films of John Carney. This is his third sortof-musical in a row, after Once and Begin Again, and it’s another full-hearted celebration of laying yourself out for love, even if you get a bit trampled on in the process. This time it concerns those most romantically dramatic of creatures: teenagers.
In 1980s Dublin, the economic downturn means 14 year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-peelo, a splendid find) is taken out of his posh school and sent to the local comprehensive, a nest of furious priests and bullies thrilled to tear at fresh meat. Partly for escape, mostly to impress an older girl (Lucy Boynton), Conor forms a band. Like any teenager, these kids use pop music to understand their feelings, but Conor and his friends distil the likes of Duran Duran and The Jam into their own compositions, mentored by Conor’s older brother (Jack Reynor). It’s as much a story of brotherly affection as romantic love, and equally moving on both counts. Of the youthful cast, Reynor is the only recognisable face, but Carney pulls strong performances from all the fresh-faced unknowns, who have to carry an equal load of drama and comedy.
The mix of music and kitchen sink drama, plus Irishness, might make The Commitments the obvious comparator, but think more in the vein of Son Of Rambow, with music instead of movies. It shares the same interest in children making their own worlds in order to escape the one they can’t change. Carney enjoys the opportunity to show greater exuberance than his previous films allowed, getting cheerfully carried away with fantasy sequences and homemade music videos for genuinely catchy songs. They’re pastiches, but the New Romantic strut of Riddle Of The Model and the Hall & Oates-meetsthe Ducktales theme tune bounce of Drive It Like You Stole It will have you humming for weeks. Awkward as they are, the film lets the kids be the heroes they believe they can be.
Carney keeps a bass note of melancholy running throughout, with Conor’s family all in various states of resignation to ordinariness, and the Dublin surroundings as cracked and faded as last night’s make-up, but it’s the hope and warmth that ring out. OLLY RICHARDS
Just as with Once and Begin Again, Sing Street will make you laugh and cry, and leave you mentally replaying its songs long after the credits roll.
Duran Duran and Spandau had cause for concern.