Wednesday 17 August 2016

Sing Street

Ah, the 1980s. Legwarmers, Rubik’s cubes, Miami Vice…and some damn fine music. Yes, some of it hasn’t exactly aged well, with some pretty aggressive synth-use getting right up in your face. But on the whole, the 80s was a hugely influential time for music and people being inspired to express themselves – knowing it was okay to be different. Stars like David Bowie, Prince and Robert Smith were, and continue to be, heroes for many people. Director/writer John Carney’s latest, Sing Street, is a love letter to this period. And it is bloody brilliant.

After his parents fall on hard times, the shy Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is pulled out of private school and put into a rough public one. He meets a beautiful girl (Lucy Boynton) and, in an attempt to impress her, tells her he’s in a band. There’s a slight problem with his plan…He isn’t in a band. So, with his outcast friends, he starts the futurist ‘Sing Street’ – and along the way, finally finds a way to express himself and learn who he really is. He isn’t Conor…He is Cosmo!

Sing Street is a fantastic little coming-of-age film. It’s painstakingly well-observed in its period setting, surely evoking strong feelings of nostalgia in anyone who grew up in the 1980s – and if you weren’t around to see the decade for real, this film is the next best thing. Never has a decade, and a generation of people, been captured so accurately and passionately. The soundtrack is brilliant, full of hits by iconic bands of the period including Duran Duran, The Cure and Hall & Oates – but it’s hard to separate them from the music of Sing Street themselves, who sound so 80s it’s no surprise that 80s veteran composer Gary Clark had a hand in the soundtrack. Songs like ‘Riddle of the Model’ and ‘A Beautiful Sea’ are perfectly crafted little songs that could easily pass for 80s hits.

The cast are incredible. Newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is remarkable as Conor, who transforms throughout the film in response to the 80s’ ever-changing culture. Mark McKenna is great as his rabbit-loving co-writer Eamon and Lucy Boynton is superb as the troubled love interest, Raphina. Jack Reynor, one of the film’s few familiar faces, puts in a touching performance as Conor’s caring older brother Brendan. And look out for a Game of Thrones icon as Conor’s father, Robert. And visually, the film is beautiful. Yaron Orbach’s cinematography makes the 80s iconography pop off the screen, creating an immersive travel back in time.

Director/writer John Carney continues to prove himself as a man who understands music with this semi-autobiographical tale. After 2007’s Once and 2013’s Begin Again, he has truly established himself as a modern-day musical film maestro. These 3 films have one thing in common – they focus on the power of music, and how it can save us. This is a wonderful sentiment, and one that I could not agree with more. I cannot wait to see what Carney comes up with next.

Although Sing Street is firmly anchored in its 1980s setting, the themes are timeless. Films like this will be around forever, because while technology and art might change, people will not. We’ve all felt lost, and we’ve all felt love. And through both of these emotions, music has always been there. Music truly is an antidote to many problems, and we’re lucky there’s such a strong history to the art-form. But now, young people can also find comfort in films like this and Submarine - films that make heroes of the shy and socially-awkward. Always be yourself, and you can always be the hero. That’s a little slice of wisdom for you…you can have that for free!

Sing Street is funny, sweet and inspiring…it is an unforgettable feel-good romp that will have you dusting off your old 80s LPs before the end credits have finished rolling. Perfect. 5/5.


Sam Love

Sing Street at CeX

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