John Carney’s Sing Street is a total delight from start to finish, and the best film about the pure joy of making music since We Are The Best! (2013), with which it shares similarities. Like that exuberant, inspiring film, Sing Street is about a group of kids forming a band in the 1980s. The girls in We Are The Best! were in Stockholm, and their aesthetic was punk. The boys of Sing Street – also the name of the band they form – are from Dublin; it is 1985, and they claim to be “futurists”, constantly being influenced by the likes of Duran Duran, Joe Jackson, A-Ha, The Clash, The Jam, M, The Style Council and The Cure.
It is also a completely engaging, hugely romantic love story. Sing Street’s lead singer (and Sing Street’s protagonist) is Conor, a fifteen year old who gets shifted from a private school to a free Christian Brothers school as his family – which includes an older brother and sister – decides to cut costs in the face of a very depressed Ireland. Across the road from the school sits an older girl – sixteen year old Raphina – who aspires to move to England and become a model. Conor offers to put her in the music video his band is making. Now all he needs to do is form the band.
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, as Conor, and Lucy Boynton, as Raphina, are superb; Boynton in particular will be a massive star by next year, mark my words. Jack Reynor, who already is a bit of a star, is also terrific as Conor’s older brother, who guides his musical education while also tenderly guiding him through the obvious domestic upheaval going on around them. The rest of the band members, while adjacent characters dramatically, are all hugely engaging in their many rehearsal, performance and, in particular, music video production scenes (shot on a clunky VHS unit).
This completes a “music trilogy” of sorts for Carney, following Once (2007) and Begin Again (2013, which I have not seen). I adored Once; like that film, Carney shoots Sing Street in a rough-hewn, handmade style, aided by impeccable period detail and design. Also like Once, the film crackles with the excitement of discovery: Walsh-Peelo and Boynton, like Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová in the earlier film, will, quite simply, steal your heart.