Like a pop song in movie form, smart, catchy and en­dear­ing

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - ON STAGE MOVIES - By Michael Phillips

Set in 1985 Dublin, “Sing Street” is a se­ri­ously en­dear­ing pic­ture from John Car­ney, the writer-di­rec­tor of “Once,” about which I am crazy. For his lat­est, I’m two-thirds crazy. That’s per­cent­age enough.

Work­ing on a broader can­vas, cre­at­ing a dif­fer­ent sort of artist’s fan­tasy of ful­fill­ment than the plain­tive “Once” of­fered, “Sing Street” ac­com­mo­dates el­e­ments of gritty re­al­ism and lib­er­at­ing es­capism, one feed­ing the other.

One minute you’re watch­ing the young pro­tag­o­nist dragged into a school bath­room and, in a scene as har­row­ing as any­thing in “Zero Dark Thirty,” wa­ter­boarded by his stern Catholic school ed­u­ca­tor in the name of re­mov­ing the boy’s of­fend­ing Du­ran Du­ran makeup. The next minute, the same boy, Conor, played by screen new­comer Fer­dia Walsh-Peelo, is chan­nel­ing his anger and con­fu­sion into shoot­ing a low-fi mu­sic video with his band­mates and the as­pir­ing model Raphina (Lucy Boyn­ton) who fills Conor’s head-space ev­ery wak­ing mo­ment.

Car­ney re­mem­bers well what it meant to be bul­lied and marginal­ized and then to find his own way through the rough stuff: by start­ing a band and let­ting the mu­sic act as both sword and shield.

Conor is one of three kids liv­ing with their un­hap­pily mar­ried and in­creas­ingly cash-strapped par­ents. Conor’s sis­ter (Kelly Thorn­ton) bears down on her stud­ies and her goals of be­ing an ar­chi­tect; his col­lege dropout brother (Jack Reynor) con­cen­trates pri­mar­ily on get­ting stoned and delv­ing into his stacks and stacks MPAA rat­ing: PG-13 (for the­matic el­e­ments in­clud­ing strong language and some bul­ly­ing be­hav­ior, a sug­ges­tive im­age, drug ma­te­rial and teen smok­ing) Run­ning time: 1:45 Opens: Fri­day and crates of vinyl LPs.

“Sing Street” is sim­plic­ity it­self: It’s about Conor putting to­gether a band to im­press the ex­otic, slightly older girl Boyn­ton por­trays as a se­ries of shift­ing at­ti­tudes and hair­styles that mask a his­tory of abuse. Conor’s rab­bit-lov­ing song­writ­ing part­ner (Mark McKenna) and fledg­ling boy pro­ducer and video cam­era­man (Ben Carolan, all red hair and braces) are joined by other mis­fits who be­come the mem­bers of Sing Street. The band takes its name from the Synge Street School (which Car­ney him­self at­tended) named for the Ir­ish drama­tist John Milling­ton Synge.

Here’s what I love about Car­ney: He’s funny on the fly. The visual and char­ac­ter de­tails are choice. Hav­ing just asked Raphina to star in his band’s video, Conor crosses the street with his pal and says, slightly pan­icked, “We need to form a band!” The bit is made by Wal­shPeelo’s “yikes!” face and the way di­rec­tor Car­ney cap­tures it with­out lin­ger­ing on the sight gag. Even the more ob­vi­ous no­tions — the boys con­tin­u­ally change their look depend­ing on which ’80s band they’re into that week — are brought off in style.

To­ward the end, “Sing Street” pares away the side char­ac­ters in fa­vor of the Conor/Raphina story, which has its draw­backs. We miss the other char­ac­ters, if only be­cause Car­ney cast them so well. And the movie reaches for a rather shame­less con­clu­sion, more about the movies and mu­si­cal fan­tasies than real life. See it; de­cide if it works for you. Ei­ther way, if you lis­tened to this mu­sic or grew up in this era or not, “Sing Street” feels like a three-minute pop song, fla­vor­some and catchy, in movie form. Michael Phillips is a Tri­bune News­pa­pers critic.


Fer­dia Walsh-Peelo, left, and Mark McKenna star in “Sing Street,” writ­ten and di­rected by John Car­ney.

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