People of a certain age will find Sing Street has an extra dimension of enjoyment, although I must stress that the film does not get by on nostalgia alone. On the contrary it is funny, touching, euphoric and melancholy in equal measure; perfectly capturing the agony and ecstasy of adolescence in a very entertaining and endearing way, and also the strange magic of creating “happy sad” music.
Set in economically depressed Ireland circa 1985, the film follows Conor (Derdia Walsh-Peelo) who attempts to chat up slightly older Raphina (Lucy Boynton) by claiming he is in a band. He then decides to make this lie a reality by putting a band together, with the help of some eccentric and hugely likeable friends, and the sage like advice of his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor). In the background of all this lurks the misery of his parent’s impending separation, school bullies, and abusive Catholic priests, but the film does not degenerate into misery. Instead, writer/director John Carney’s bittersweet tale focuses on how these trials can forge artistic endeavour and crowd-pleasing defiance.
Performances are terrific, and Carney has a real eye and ear for the sights and sounds of the time. This is particularly amusing as the band goes through various hilarious influences as it evolves, from Duran Duran to The Cure, Spandau Ballet and so on. Speaking of which, the afore-mentioned bands do feature on the soundtrack, along with The Jam, The Clash, Joe Jackson, Hall & Oates and various other greats from the 1980s, including a very clever use of A-ha’s Take on Me. However, the original songs are very good too, especially when they are being knowingly naff by spoofing the sillier aspects of 80s fashions and music (“The Riddle of the Model” being a case in point).
As I stated earlier, if the 1980s was not your era, please don’t be put off. Sing Street is hardly groundbreaking, and there are flaws (for example, by necessary contrivance, the band become much too professional much too quickly). However, it is immensely charming and frankly will appeal to anyone with a soul. I came out of the cinema with an enormous grin on my face.