Movie: Sing Street

Sing Street
Directed by: John Carney
Starring: Fredia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen
Release Date: April 15, 2016
Reviewed by: Lori Heiselman
Rating: PG-13
FA Scorecard: A

While I realize that you’re likely reading this because of the Fiction Addict Oscar theme – I would like to submit that SING STREET was robbed for at least a nomination for Best Soundtrack or Song.  Sing Street was written and directed by John Carney, who won “Best Picture” at the 2007 Independent Spirit Awards for his film ONCE.  (Yes, the same Once that, when adapted for stage, won 8 out of it’s 11 Tony Award nominations.)  At the Oscars in 2007, the song “Falling Slowly” won Best Original Song at the Academy Awards and the soundtrack received a Grammy nomination.

So where was SING STREET in the Academy Awards?

Kudos to the Golden Globes for recognizing this unassuming Irish film about kids that start a High School rock band with a Best Picture nomination. While it would nearly impossible to stack up against La La Land’s whopping $30M budget, A-list cast and near perfection in cinematography, SING STREET shines with a largely unknown cast, a slew of new teen actors and an unstoppable soundtrack.  With a tiny budget and a box office gross of 3,200,000 in the US, the film could have easily fallen through the cracks…

…but I think SING STREET is the little movie that could.

It’s the mid 1980’s in Dublin and Conor’s family is struggling. His parents are divorcing, they are selling their house, and the teen is being sent to a new, more affordable Catholic school.  Unaware of the school’s dress code requiring black shoes, Conor is forced to just wear socks while at school as he cannot afford a second pair.  In an attempt to be noticed by the mysterious Raphina who is lives across the street from the school, Conor strikes up a conversation.

She says she’s a model. She’s just about to make her big break. She’s probably moving to London.  So he does what any wise teen would do – he asks if she would like to be in his band’s music video.

Only now he has to become a musician and find a band.

The film now becomes a nostalgic discovery of 80’s music.  Duran Duran, The Cure, Depeche Mode, Joe Jackson, Elvis Costello …  With the help of his big brother Brennan, Conor and his friends start channeling the bands of the day as they attempt to discover their own voice.

This film wins in so many ways –

The humor is smart and witty.  While having a conversation with his brother, Conor states that Raphina has a boyfriend. The following dialogue occurs:

Brendan:  How d’you know he’s her boyfriend anyway?

Conor: It seemed like it. Pulled off in his car, music blaring. He’s pretty cool.

Brendan: What was he listening to?

Conor: Genesis

Brendan: He will not be a problem.

Conor: Really?

Brendan: Trust me. No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins.

The characters are strong, distinct and colorful. By the end, I found myself rooting for every person in the film, hoping that they would discover their own voice and bravely step away from the limitations of 1985 Ireland.  The strength of Conor, the desperation of Raphina, the quiet sadness of Brendan, Eamon who channels a perfectly nerdy young Elvis Costello, the other bandmates that add so much flavor –  SING STREET builds a surprising amount of character development throughout the film.

The 1980’s soundtrack is fantastic. It’s New Wave mixtape perfection.  The songs Conor and Eamon write are incredibly catchy and fun.  After watching the film, I found it physically impossible to not sing “Drive it Like You Stole It” during my daily commute.

Bravo to John Carney for crafting a creative, charming coming of age film that can be loved by people of all ages.  La La Land was great – but in my book, SING STREET is the feel good, musical movie of the year.

Stream or buy the soundtrack here.

So far, everyone that I have recommended this film to has loved it.  It’s just a solid, feel good movie. Sing Street will make you smile, make you dream about your teenage years, and it may inspire you to peg your jeans and do some terrible 80’s dancing…

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