Full disclosure to start, Irish director John Carney‘s previous musicals (especially Once, but also the underrated Begin Again) are in my personal pantheon of pop culture that I love so much I find it hard to write about. (Also in there? Say Anything, Our Town, “Twin Peaks“, and George Michael.) So, when I first heard about Sing Street, his new one about a group of Irish teenagers starting a New Wave band to escape the dreariness of being at a Christian Brothers school in Dublin in 1985, I bought my ticket at Alamo before even watching the trailer.
And, while it doesn’t have the star power of Begin Again or or the (heart wrenching) emotional realism of Once. It has the soul I’ve come to expect from Carney, and it taps into the joy (and confusion) of being a teenager with a dream, when you’re still too young to know any better. It reminded me a lot of The Commitments with a genre swap. (One of the original Committmentettes – Maria Doyle Kennedy – plays the main boy Conor’s (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) mom!)
What I love about this (beyond the fact that its an Irish musical, which means I’m pretty much automatically all in), is the ways that is comes close to cliches and then surpasses them. Like Jack Reynor as the older brother/musical sage, he could have been simply goofy comic relief, but Reynor plays him with so much sadness just under the surface that he broke my heart.
And Raphina (Lucy Boynton) – the model that inspires not just the music but the band itself – could just be a manic pixie dream girl, but Carney wrote her as a real human, who is just as lost and confused as the other kids.
And the songs are great, but they sound like something kids (especially insightful kids I’ll grant), would actually write:
Look, this movie just made me, really happy (even though it is steeped in that quintessentially Irish theme of leaving and being left behind.) And like Carney’s previous movies, really made me wish I was a musician. Because I love the montages of them writing songs (a classic Carney trope at this point) and the grin on bassist Eamon’s (Mark McKenna) face when Conor comes to the door and asks him if he wants to write a song is the most irresistible thing I’ve seen in a while. (The answer is, “Always.”)