Between Once and Begin Again, writer/director John Carney has developed a winning formula with his films: two musical collaborators make beautiful art while having fun and falling in love, or at least something like it. With Sing Street, Carney provides a twist on the formula: instead of singer/songwriter music, the formula is applied to 80s pop in a delightful coming-of-age tale.
Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is a teenager in 1985 Dublin whose parents decide to move him to the most affordable parochial school in town. It’s hell for Conor, with one exception: it’s next to the home of a slightly older girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who considers herself a model. In an effort to get her attention, Conor introduces himself as Cosmo and pretends to have a band, which gets her attention. In order to try and make his claim true, Conor recruits a motley assortment of classmates together to create a band. The resulting group, which goes by the name Sing Street, turns out to be far better than he could have expected. With Raphina in tow as his muse and the star of their music videos, Conor creates a new future for himself.
Sing Street is surprisingly great, introducing new songs that feel like they could have competed on the charts with Duran Duran and similar groups. Walsh-Peelo is undoubtedly the center of the film, and whether it’s his budding relationship with Raphina or the one he shares with older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), he manages to convey Conor as both a shy nerd and self-confident front man. If the plot feels a little familiar, both to Carney’s previous work and other tales of high school students forming a band, it’s nevertheless refreshing to see a film that’s both as agreeable and loaded with talent as this one. For fans of musicals, high school stories or 80s music, this is a must-see.