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Sing Street ***

by Julian Stark

A charming, coming of age love story that effortlessly uses music as foundation for following your dreams.

Is it worth $10? Yes

Succeeding his musicals “Once” and “Begin Again,” writer/director John Carney rolls along with his newest blend of sound and a slice of life, “Sing Street.” This time, it’s Dublin 1985. Fourteen-year-old Connor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) doesn’t have it easy. He strums his guitar, but the noise is suppressed by the fighting of his parents (Aiden Gillen & Maria Doyle Kennedy) outside his room. They are broke and separating, and Connor has to switch schools to save money. The only voice he has is that of his wise older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), with whom he connects and finds solace through music. He is Connor’s biggest influence and moral compass of the film. As Brendan has Connor watch Duran Duran’s music video for “Rio,” he says, “What tyranny could stand up to that?”

At his new school, it’s Connor who has to stand up to tyranny. He is either being bullied by other students, or he is repeatedly humiliated by a priest for not following dress code. He eventually finds his sidekick, another classmate, the ginger-haired Darren (Ben Carolen). They spot a beautiful, mysterious girl who stands across the street from the school. Connor is no casanova, but decides to go for it. Her name is Raphina (Lucy Boynton). She tells him that she is a model, and in an attempt to impress, he asks her if she would like to be in a music video for his band. She agrees. The only issue is, what band?



Connor and Darren recruit a bassist, a keyboardist, a drummer, and a songwriter named Eamon (Mark McKenna), the most musically inclined in the film. They name the band “Sing Street,” and they have no idea what kind of music they will play. Beyond that, their band outfits don’t scream rock-n-roll as much as trick-or-treat. As they grow and find new musical inspiration, they comically go to school in different fashions and styles, embracing their newly discovered selves until the next phase comes along.

Connor and Raphina’s relationship is nothing groundbreaking, but it is charming to watch. Connor’s first encounter with love is full of relatable moments -- awkward kisses, stubbornness, heartbreak. Raphina’s character is slightly underdeveloped, and she is used more as a catalyst for Connor’s actions rather than as a main character herself.

John Carney and Gary Clark, who wrote the film’s songs, have a knack for correlating the music with the development of the characters. The band starts shaky but gradually evolves, and they are always a blast to listen to. As Connor matures and is exposed to the pains of life, his desire for expression grows, and his musicianship blossoms. 

The film finds its magic by emphasizing the battle between music and pain while demonstrating that one is needed for the other. It’s a story of opposing forces. Its philosophy is that music offers escape, but the hardships remain. Toward the end, “Sing Street” doubles down on optimism and loses some of its complexity in favor of a feel good ending. Luckily, one bad note barely diminishes a film with so many good ones.

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