“I have just seen an instant classic.”
That’s what I said to myself as I left the theater, with the music and adrenaline of “Sing Street” still coursing through my veins.
It’s the kind of movie you want to turn around and see again, immediately. Right after you download the soundtrack. Yes, it’s that good.
Haven’t heard anything about it? I’m not surprised. I wouldn’t have known about this film either, except that my Regal Crown Club card finally paid off in the form of free tickets to an advanced screening. (Never mind the $25 popcorn.) Anyway, let’s watch!
Hooked yet? You will be.
Irish writer/director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) has conjured a nearly perfect coming-of-age tale set in 1980s Dublin. Think “The Commitments” meets “Sixteen Candles” meets “Footloose,” but all in one glorious package that manages to be both fresh and nostalgic at the same time. Drawing from his own teenage years at the real Synge Street school, Carney avoids the trap of creating a pure fluff piece by infusing the story with real heart.
A large part of that is due to the breakout talent and hero of “Sing Street,” 16-year-old Ferdia Walsh-Peelo. As “Connor Lalor” navigates the tricky currents of a new school, family drama, and first love, Walsh-Peelo is heartbreakingly earnest, predictably awkward, and unexpectedly optimistic. Everything about his performance rings true. No small feat, considering that this is his acting debut.
Thanks to Carney’s non-actor, open casting approach, Walsh-Peelo is also joined by some equally promising new faces. Lucy Boynton is luminous as his love interest, “Raphina,” and Mark McKenna is quietly compelling as Conor’s songwriting partner, “Eamon.”
One of the most satisfying pairings, though, is anchored by the more experienced Jack Reynor (“Transformers:Age of Extinction”). He shines as Conor’s older brother, “Brendan.” Dealing with the angst of his own stalled dreams, Brendan tackles his brotherly mentoring role with gusto. Conor soaks up the advice like a ruddy-cheeked sponge, then begins to find his own way as his confidence grows. Rarely do we see the underlying affection between two brothers played so simply and honestly, so the relationship between Conor and Brendan is a lovely surprise.
The other undeniable star of “Sing Street” is the music. While the story could have easily been told with the band only performing covers of ’80s hits, Carney had a bigger vision for the film. He collaborated with Scottish songwriter Gary Clark to craft 8 original tunes that not only add layers of light and shade to the storyline, but could be stand-alone chart toppers today. From the gleefully retro “The Riddle of the Model,” to the Cure-tastic “Beautiful Sea,” to the EMO ballad “To Find You,” there’s something for everyone. Welcome to your summer soundtrack, people.
There are few darker notes to the plot, and the ending feels slightly of place, but in general “Sing Street” will leave you feeling as light and fizzy as a packet of Pop Rocks.
The movie poster reads: “Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.” That’s it in a nutshell, of course, but happily, this film is so much more.
SING STREET opens in New York April 15th, and is in theaters nationwide on April 29th.