By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Sing Street is a wholesome and fun coming of age film where new student Conor Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) needs to form a band so he can win the heart of Raphina (Lucy Boynton). This girl hangs out in front of a boarding home, waiting for a knight in shining armour to take her away, and who she’s dating now is hardly Lancelot.
Unlike musicals which I’ve come to adore in the past, namely Little Shop of Horrors about a nerd aspiring for success (and to win at love), and Grease about 50’s style romance, this tale explores the new wave post-punk sound which emerged mid-80’s. To explore the economic difficulties of the era, the story takes place in Dublin, Ireland.
The music from Duran Duran, The Jam, The Cure, Motörhead, Joe Jackson and M highlight what was popular in this genre during that time. 1985 was rife with problems for a generation in this country in the throes of change. There’s a generation feeling trapped. The Irish lifestyle is trapped in doldrums and economic stability is in freefall. Not everyone can afford to uproot their life for the golden opportunities Great Britain offers. This introduction sets the tone of this film. Conor has to deal with being taken out of a private school and placed into public since his family are not making ends meet.
There’s even a bully he has to contend with. He seems like an outcast, but soon, he meets fellow mates who’s been there and done that. He quickly becomes friends with Darren (Ben Carolan, who could easily be this film’s version of Ron Granger from Harry Potter). When he takes an interest in the mysterious girl across the street, Raphina, and approaches her. The first thing he has to say to impress her is that he’s part of a band when he’s not. Fortunately, his new pal introduces him to Eamon (Mark McKenna), who teaches him the finer points of how to a musician. Fortunately, with a father in the music industry, he has unprecedented access to a variety of musical instruments.
On the home front, Conor’s elder brother Brendan (Nicely played by Jack Reynor) encourages the youth to pursue his dreams. He also offers sage advice: instead of being another cover band, the group should create original music. Most of the lyrical content is about getting the girl, but later, the words Conor sets to music reflect his teenage life. “Brown Shoes” is probably as close to “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” from Pink Floyd this band can get and it’s the highlight of this film.
Other memorable hits include “To Find You” and “A Beautiful Sea” – Peelo’s vocal range is impressive. The music video and single “Riddle of the Model” is a hilarious parody of the glam rock scene. To see Conor go through all the ridiculous costume changes in his quest to find an identity is just as funny. To compare his look to those bands at the time, especially Duran Duran, is a nostalgia trip for those who grew up to this kind of music. I found myself really wanting to buy this album after seeing this film, and that’s very rare for me to be this excited! Had Twisted Sister been added to this movie’s list of contributing artists, I’d be rolling in the aisles with laughter. Fortunately, heavy metal is not the focus of this film. The careful choice of which musicians are spotlighted defines this film. While Motörhead is part of this film’s soundtrack, their music was spotlighted before Conor formed his band. Their song is Brendan’s anthem.
To see this elder root for his young brother gives this film gravitas. Without this look at the growing problems in the Lalor family, this product would become just another teen movie. Issues exist in the household and while what this film suggests as a way out is not the best solution, running away to Neverland, perhaps it’s best to think of this film as a Peter Pan fantasy.
4 Stars out of 5