Sing Street, 2016.
Written and Directed by John Carney.
Starring Lucy Boynton, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Aidan Gillen, Jack Reynor, Percy Chamburuka, Mark McKenna, Kelly Thornton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Ian Kenny, and Don Wycherley.
A boy growing up in Dublin during the 1980s escapes his strained family life by starting a band and moving to London.
Here is how authentic Sing Street‘s (the latest film from writer/director John Carney) depiction of the highly stylized and glamorous 1980s pop rock music scene is: during the trailer for the movie, some original music is sampled, and I did not know it was actually a song created for the film. I just jumped the gun, assuming that the band of Dublin high school teenagers would be bringing us cover tunes, and that this sick jam blaring over a montage of plot points and other general trailer stuff was some licensed song from the era that I had just never heard of (although my knowledge is vast, keep in mind I was only alive for one year of the 1980s).
Carney co-wrote most, if not all, of the original music found within Sing Street, so the fact that I was getting things mixed up before having even seen the movie should tell you right off the bat that the man has a deep understanding of not just the style, but how to create those synthesized tunes. Pretty much every song in this movie (especially “Drive It Like You Stole It” and “Riddle Of The Model”) all feel worthy of Academy Awards consideration for Best Original Song, but since, let’s face it, the Oscars are somewhat of a joke, I will go one step further and say that the songs written for Sing Street are instant classics, will go on to be timeless, and can be played alongside some of the best of the actual music from that decade. Sing Street is a movie where the soundtrack absolutely deserves a purchase alongside your movie ticket, just for the combination of original and licensed music (which includes everything from Duran Duran, Motorhead, Genesis, The Cure, and so many more, with even more references to mainstream phenomenal talent from that time).
It’s not just outstanding music that makes Sing Street one of 2016’s best films so far, but also that it is backed up by a story that even though is familiar and not necessarily treading new ground, engages from beginning to end, all riding on one of the most powerful messages a film can contain. Sing Street is about taking negativity (in this case, it is a broken home with two parents in debt, constantly verbally fighting with each other, and at every turn leaving you wondering what made the couple fall in love in the first place), and channeling all that negativity (that could potentially cause crippling depression) into something positive that sets your soul on fire and makes you feel alive.
In this case, it is about some Dublin youth attempting to block out the emotional stress of living at home (and basically dealing with abuse from school teachers as well) by coming together and forming a band. Essentially, Sing Street is about taking all of life’s frustrations, pains, ridicules, and problems, and escaping them not just with a simple distraction hobby, but using that hobby to chase some very wild dreams, as accomplishing them will defeat that negativity and prove detractors wrong. The 1980s authenticity really helps here again, as Sing Street is full of ridiculous costumes, makeup and eyeliner, silly music videos, and infectious craziness. As the characters go through different feelings and emotions their wardrobes also change, wisely keeping the aesthetics refreshing.
Most importantly though, Sing Street is also about going after the girl of your dreams (some might argue it’s specifically a movie about first love, but the film is way too intelligently written to be labeled that direct). Carney doesn’t necessarily stack the deck against our leading young lad Cosmo, but paints a series of circumstances and events that surprisingly play out grounded in reality. It’s always understandable why Cosmo wants the girl, why they would be good for each other, and what draws them closer. As previously mentioned, the movie also subtly deals with some dark familial problems thematically, but also never never once gets too melodramatic or disturbing. The movie consistently remains lighthearted and fun, which often works for it rather than against it. The resolution with the local bully feels a little bit too feel-good, but overall, the tone works.
Cosmo also has a brother played by Jack Reynor who consistently gives relationship advice in the form of music, making him one of the most interesting characters in the movie. Theoretically, he is meant to be a mentor for Cosmo on how to deal with all of the crazy situations he’s going through in life, but he also feels like a reflection of the audience. He’s doing everything he can to help Cosmo win the girl, just as the audience would, considering that the characters are that damn likable. All of this also makes for some great discussion about 1980s music within the dialogue, illuminating just how deep and inspiring all music can be when it speaks to us.
Sing Street has it all; laughs, romance, feverishly catchy music, killer acting performances (even from some actors that have never acted before and are primarily musicians), a powerful message, and will have you chasing dreams and girls that seem completely unattainable. Check your pulse if you can’t crack a smile during it.
As I was speaking with John Carney outside the theater, he somewhat put me on the spot and asked me if I thought Sing Street was even better than Richard Linklater’s recently released Everybody Wants Some!!. I told him both are some of my favorite movies this year, but after having some time to think about it and write this review, Sing Street probably is slightly better. Either way, seeing as both movies explore music in the 1980s, they most certainly make great companion pieces. However, what rises Sing Street a notch above is just how influential and profoundly it will speak to its viewers.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
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