The Beatles are gone, Elvis is being brought back by Baz Luhrmann and everybody knows this is probably not the end of the road for the music-themed film trend. But before Bohemian Rhapsody, Rocketman and everything that is yet to come, there was Sing Street—a little Irish movie that does not focus on a well-known celebrity, but on a talented young man with big aspirations. Interestingly enough, it might just be the feel-good sing-a-long dramedy that audiences have been looking for.
Sing Street follows the story of Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a boy from Dublin in 1985 who changes to a catholic school due to his parents’ financial problems. In order to impress the mysterious girl living in front of his new school, Raphina (Lucy Boynton), Conor forms a band. His rebelliously lazy brother Brendan (played by Jack Reynor) quickly becomes his mentor and takes him in what could be seen as a trip to the 80s musical landscape. Starting with artists such as Duran Duran and going on to visit others such as The Jam or The Cure.
Although not flawless, Carney’s directing results in a charming and highly quotable coming-of-age film with the similarities of a cult classic. Its collection of already existent music are not hollow needle drops but an integral part of the plot, and they offer a safe place for Conor amidst a messy period of his life. Nonetheless, Sing Street really stands out thanks to its amazing original soundtrack with songs like “Drive it Like You Stole It” or “The Riddle of the Model” and much like in Linklater’s School of Rock, some of the actors are actual musicians, which makes the band’s performances all the more exciting.
Perhaps it’s the director’s overall interest in making films about the meaning of music to the ordinary individual (see Once or Begin Again) but Sing Street feels sincere. It represents the feeling of falling in love and being audacious. “Rock ‘n’ roll is a risk, you risk being ridiculed“, says Jack Reynor’s character to his younger brother. Indeed, Sing Street goes further and it goes deeper. It represents that very special feeling of discovering a new favorite thing and holding tight to it while also wanting to show it to all your friends.
The interest in making a music-themed biopic is mostly to appeal to generations of nostalgics wanting to remember their younger years through the greatest hits of a band or a musician that no longer releases albums. Sing Street implies that there is also a story behind the nostalgics and people are shaped by the culture they consume but also that we are capable of creating something new based on what we have experienced. Maybe Sing Street serves as the perfect example of a balance between the nostalgia most people seek and the originality blockbusters have been lacking.