(M) Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor
In 1985, things were tough all over Ireland. Due to the tight financial times, 15-year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) has been told by his parents that he will be pulled out of private school to attend the local state-sponsored school, Synge Street Christian Brothers School. Even though things are tough at the new school, it gives him a refuge from his parents’ constant arguing. One of the highlights of attending Synge Street is getting to see the beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who lives in a girls home across from the school. She becomes the inspiration for Conor to start a band and becomes the muse for his lyrical adventure through adolescence. As his home and academic life deteriorates, his music becomes the bright light for him and the band as they look to escape from the depressing existence in Ireland.
Musicals are not new to cinema, but director John Carney has made a career of creating some of the most original films that incorporate music into the storyline. Academy Award-winning Once (2007’s Oscar for Best Original Song) still ranks as one of the most original modern musicals. Fans of the director have come to appreciate his story-telling and his ability to incorporate music as an outpouring of ordinary people’s lives. Unlike Once and 2013’s Begin Again, which were modern-day melodic adventures, Carney’s Sing Street is a coming-of-age journey set in the 1980s.
Carney tells Conor’s story with a mystical mix of classic tunes and he also adds original material that creates a compelling element to this story of young love and self-expression.
Carney has a knack for finding new acting talent, even though he incorporates established talent to maintain the overall rhythm of the film. Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and his band are a perfect combination of characters that come together organically. This pool of young men have the right chemistry, which emerges on-screen through the desire to share the music of their era. Innovative director Carney shows the need for all aspects of the band by incorporating all the talent that ranges from multi-instrumentalist Eamon (Mark McKenna) to Conor as the charismatic frontman. Boynton has the right look for this 1980s love story and manages to portray the worldly, yet innocent, Raphina with hypnotic accuracy.
Around this effectively orchestrated cast of young talent is the understated and powerful performance of Jack Reynor. He plays jaded but supportive Brendan, who helps younger brother Conor to move toward his self awareness and burgeoning talent.
Some might dismiss Carney’s latest musical ride as a knock-off of The Commitments. But even as it brings to mind that classic 1991 Irish hit, Sing Street is a film that stands on its own as an inventive musical. It provides all of the elements needed for a uniquely nostalgic journey. Well-chosen tunes of yesteryear, fresh new talent, familial heartache and young love make this another jewel in the crown of this independent director’s musical crown.
What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
Have you ever wondered why certain musical groups endure and some fade into obscurity? Musical talent is important, charisma is essential, endurance is critical, but the thing that truly helps the longevity of a band’s career has to be chemistry within the group. Many groups are an odd mix of personalities and talent, but when all know their role and play it well, that is musical magic … and music groups are a mere microcosm of a bigger picture of God’s design! The intention for those who are followers of Jesus is that they are meant to work in the same manner — All understanding and knowing their role and working well with others, to achieve God’s plan. When it is done well, his followers can truly make beautiful music with their lives.
Where do you go in the Bible?
Romans 12: 4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Colossians 1:18