Back in July, a friend of mine recommended a film for me to watch. When I say recommended, I mean he spammed the group chat telling us to watch it for days until we were finally able to organise a date & time for us to watch it together. That film was Sing Street, & this is my review of it. Tom & Ryan, this is for you.
Just released on DVD after being premiered earlier this year, Sing Street is a “musical comedy-drama” written, produced, & directed by John Carney, the guy who also wrote & directed the 2013 film Begin Again & the 2007 Once, both of which he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song for, winning for the latter. He’s a very talented man when it comes to original, music based films & this film does not differ. The cast is lead by newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor, along with Lucy Boynton & Jack Reynor with Maria Doyle Kennedy as Conor’s mother.
The story revolves around Conor, a boy in a new school in 1980s Ireland who starts a band in order to impress a girl. With the encouragement & guidance from his older brother he forms Sing Street – a take on the school’s name ‘Synge Street’. Together the band make their own songs & style, & while it was to impress a girl that they started, their passion for the music they’re creating takes over & it’s just so good to watch.
The characters are like the kind of characters you want in every film & the actors are incredible. John Carney announced back in 2014 that he would be casting unknown actors in roles, bringing newcomers Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Ben Carolan, Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka, Conor Hamilton & Karl Rice as the boys of Sing Street, with Ian Kenny as the school bully. The fresh cast is amazing, & really feels like a bonded group. I’d be really interested to find out what the rehearsal process was like for the film to get all the lads to have such an amazing chemistry in all of their debut film roles.
As the lead role Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is incredible as both an actor & a singer & is definitely a talent I’ll be keeping my eye on in the future. He brings so much courage, determination yet at times vulnerability to the character & it really is heartbreaking to watch him at times. Jack Reynor plays his older brother Brendon, who may be my favourite character from the film. He’s so gorgeous inside & out, & forever goes out of his way to help his little brother out despite his array of problems & regrets. Reynor is fast becoming the next big actor Ireland has produced & he makes this character so lovable it’s a little bit hard not to fall in love with him too.
And then there’s Raphina. She’s kind of what the film is all about, with her character being the reason behind the band’s creation as well as being the inspiration for half the songs. She’s so much more than the typical small town girl with big dreams & a bad boy boyfriend, & it’s her character that you find yourself routing for the most. She’s played by Lucy Boynton, who prior to this was probably most known for her role as Posy alongside Emma Watson in the 2007 BBC adaptation of Noel Streatfield’s novel Ballet Shoes. She’s amazing as Raphina, & clearly really understands her character, portraying her in a way that makes your heart hurt for her.
The script is so smart, making the viewer really understand the characters without delving into their backstories an unnecessary amount at all. It’s really simple, with quick lines or moments to give us an insight into each of them & making you feel really emotional attached to each character pretty much instantly. It’s how films should be done. And it’s so witty too – the film opens to Conor writing lyrics using fragments of his parent’s argument happening downstairs.
The filming style is perfect & the editing is flawless. Set in the dawn of the music video, the shots go between depicting the tough life lead by the characters in their personal lives to the music videos they attempt to make themselves, as well as one glorious scene where the vision for a music video is acted out. It’s a gorgeous depiction of what Conor aspires Sing Street to be.
And the soundtrack, oh the soundtrack. Full of the likes of Duran Duran, The Clash, & Spandau Ballet, as well as some incredible original songs that fit so seamlessly into the era that it’s hard to remember that the kids in Sing Street weren’t a real band. Most of the original songs were composed by Gary Clark, who’s described by wikipedia as an “80s veteran composer”, accompanied by writer John Carney & members of the band Relish, with additional credits to Graham Henderson and Zamo Riffman & even a song co-written & performed by Adam Levine. I highly recommend listening to the original songs (which are all available on iTunes & Apple Music), but seeing how the songs weave in with the story in the film is even better.
The costume department did an amazing job. While the band tries to find it’s identity the boys go through a series of debatably bad fashion choices from cowboy suits to bleached fringes, which brilliantly show this bunch of young teenage boys navigating themselves into what they want their image to be. But mostly, the costumes worn by Raphina are the best of them all. There’s scarves, hoop earrings, layers of pearls, netted fingerless gloves & always stacks upon stacks of bangles. It is a wardrobe to die for.
The plot line is simple yet elegant, & completely pulls you into the story & the relationships of the characters. There’s fighting, there’s bullying & there’s tough times; but alongside it all there’s family, there’s friendship & very excellent music. And while I won’t spoil it, the ending is beautiful.
Sing Street truly is one of the best things to come out of non-American cinema in years, & most definitely one of my favourite films of the year. It’s the kind of film that makes me desperately need to make films. So thank you Tom for persuading me to watch this, it truly has made my life better.