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‘Sing Street’ Rocks (Movie Review)

sing street posterAfter mixing it up with bigger stars and budgets with Begin Again starring Kiera Knightley and Mark Ruffalo, writer/director John Carney has taken things back down a notch with the incredibly winning Sing Street. This film takes the sweetness found in Carney’s breakout film, Once, and enlivens the material with an attitude akin to Son of Rambow. As a result, Sing Street is a very charming coming-of-age story, with a number of successful ideas put into action and a killer soundtrack.

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Set in 1980s inner-city Dublin, the story revolves around Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), the young son of two struggling parents (Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy). To save money, Conor is moved to a new school, Synge Street, which is troublesome for various reasons that range from bullies to regulation shoes. It matters little compared to the biggest wrinkle for Conor – how to impress a girl.

It was not surprising to learn Sing Street was a semi-autobiographical film. There is also no reason not to expect Carney to keep going back to incorporating music in his films. The film provides Conor with an ingenious solution. In order to impress Raphina (Lucy Boynton), he forms a band named Sing Street.

With help from his vinyl-collecting loser brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) and multi-talented Eamon (Mark McKenna), Conor assembles a crew and develops a motley identity of sorts. It leads to the creation of numerous catchy tracks and a humorous understanding of how confidence in an image can make you feel better about yourself. This is especially important when the film focuses on conflict seen between Conor and school principal Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley).

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That is not all the film is trying to say, but there is a lot of fun to be had in seeing Conor and his band dive into making music and their clumsy attempts at making music videos. 80s pop veteran Gary Clark helped write the songs with Carney and the greatest part about the new music is how it has the feel of a bunch of high school kids that made these songs. The tunes are catchy and the lyrics put all the themes and issues right on the surface, which is what you’d expect.

Much of the film is focused exclusively on Conor and young Walsh-Peelo is quite good in his debut role. As he adopts new looks that take him from a shy kid in a school uniform to Robert Smith of The Cure, we get to see how confidence pays off in his attitude towards those picking on him. We also get a good amount of focus on his friends and family.

Not all of the band members are fully fleshed out, but the gifted, Rabbit-loving Eamon and lil’ red-headed Darren (Ben Carolan) allow for some fun interactions. Raphina is more or less depicted as basically an object of desire for Conor, but the two do have good chemistry. The family life does not exactly approach the detailed levels of films like The Squid and the Whale or Submarine, but Reynor does take his familiar role a long way thanks to an emphasis on emotion.

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Really, Sing Street is most effective when watching these kids try to make things work on the fly. Some inspired musical sequences lead to a lot of fun moments, as we watch them attempt to make their music and image cinematic in the form of these music videos. There is even an imaginative sequence that calls upon one 80s movie classic to fuel the fun, bouncy nature of the film and what these kids are going for.

Sing Street works really well as a crowd pleaser. It calls to mind some other solid coming-of-age stories and pays tribute to one of its obvious inspirations, The Commitments, but certainly marches to its own beat. The film has plenty of fun during its journey to an ending that will maybe feel emotional to some. I found it affecting enough, but was plenty engaged by seeing a mixed crew put together some fresh tunes.

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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