Sing Street (John Carney, 2016)

What's it about? Dublin, 1985. After moving to a rough new school, sensitive teenager Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) sets about forming a new band to impress a girl.

Is it any good? It's an enjoyable coming-of-age musical-drama, with fetching performances and a sweetly melancholic tone. Walsh-Peelo turns in an immensely appealing performance as the impressionable teenager struggling to come to terms with the bullies at his new school, his hormones and the break-up of his parents marriage (nice turns from Aiden Gillen and Maria Doyle-Kennedy). This being a musical drama, his outlet is of course music. Inspired by the bands on Top of the Pops and encouraged by his slacker music-guru brother (Jack Reynor, stealing most of the scenes he is in), he sets about impressing the enigmatic Raphina (Lucy Boynton) by assembling a rag-tag team of musicians, to both hilarious and heart-warming effect. This set-up allows for a fabulous soundtrack of 80s classic, which are paid homage by several original songs, all pretty good numbers performed by the onscreen band of non-professional actors. Carney certainly (New)-Romanticises 1980s Dublin and it's a pity the various band members don't get more screen time, but it'll strike a chord with anyone who's ever imagined themselves as a pop-star and had a dodgy haircut or make-up (or both) as a result.

I don't trust you. What do others think? Rave reviews on the festival circuit and amongst audiences who declare it charming, funny, warm, joyous and so on. All of which kinda surprised John Carney, since it contains darker, downbeat, bitter elements which offset the sweet. If only there were a word to describe that; sweet-bitter, perhaps? I'm more in Carney's camp here - I found the ending in particular quite ambiguous and not quite as up-lifting as others have done. 

Anything else I should know? John Carney can probably expect another Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, as he achieved with his previous films Begin Again and Once (which went on to win). It's the calibre of the original songs in Sing Street that set the film apart from thematically similar stuff like The Commitments and School of Rock, who of course performed only cover versions. Carney admits the film is a semi-autobiographical memoir (he attended the Synge Street school featured in the film and was an early member of The Frames), although he has deliberately included a fantastical wish-fulfilment element to soften the reality of the times - not least in the central Back to the Future-inspired sequence, which also gives us the opportunity to admire Aiden Gillen's dancing. Also Cyril McDuff.

What does the Fonz think? The Commitments of Rock.

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