Movie review: not a sour note in “Sing Street”

You’ve seen it before: boy spots girl from afar, instantly falling for her; boy makes band to get said girl to like him; boy rebels against oppressive elders; boy has wise older brother to receive advice from; random interlude of choreographed gym dance scene; et cetera, et cetera. These are all plot points of many other films and aren’t, in themselves, revolutionary or original.

What you haven’t seen before, however, is a film like Sing Street. It takes all of these concepts and wraps them together to create an authentic story about the life of a 15-year-old boy Irish boy in 1985, grappling with life, love and everything in between. Written and directed by John Carney (Once, Begin Again), this film takes the well-worn trope of the “teen band that just so happens to be wildly talented” and turns it into something that feels real.

The music played throughout the film by both the band – aptly named Sing Street after their school, with “Drive It Like You Stole It” and “Up” being two highlights, and popular acts of the time, such as Duran Duran and The Clash, contribute to the film’s tonal undercurrent and help establish the time period. One particular highlight of the film’s use of music is a scene’s subtle use of a piano-cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” to a chill-inducing effect.

Being set in the 1980s and placing so much stress on the music of the times could have very easily bogged it down into a nostalgic mess, as so many period films do. However, it escapes this by focusing on the characters and not on the time period. We are drawn closely to how they interact with one another, regardless of the fringed hair and bloused clothes. In this film, there is no rush to hit any specific emotional beats or reach the inevitable destination. There is time allotted for the characters to feel emotions to their full extent and never does the audience feel weighed down from those emotions. They are gracefully and believably portrayed.

This is the type of film that should be seen by the masses all around the world, but sadly it will be forgotten for more heavy-handed films that speak louder, even if they’re not saying anything. But Sing Street’s underdog and quiet brilliance are what make the film everything it is. Regardless of whether it makes $200 million or $200, it will remain the same product of lovely nuances.

No, it is not about soaring fights that span the world nor the hilarious antics of raunchy adults – hell, it even has the gall not to have any computer-generated imagery (CGI). Instead, it is a little film about a boy making his way through the world around him, and that is all it ever needs to be.

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