My taste in film could generously be called peculiar. By those who know me, I’m mostly associated with my love of superheroes, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, bad action movies, and period pieces. While that’s a fairly accurate overview of the sort of movies I love, every so often a film comes along that completely shatters my preconceived notion of what makes a “Melissa Movie.”
The Social Network was one such film. True Grit another. Sing Street is now the third.
Sing Street centers around Conor, a teenage boy whose family sends him to a new school when their finances become strapped. This new school, it so happens, is a terrifying hellhole filled with bullies, abusive priests, and rioting classrooms. With both school and home quickly transforming into a living nightmare, Conor finds escape when he meets Raphina–the cool girl who lurks across the street–and starts a band.
Written and directed by John Carney (who made both Once and Begin Again), Sing Street is packed with catchy pop music and characters who are just begging to break your heart. The film is set in the 80’s and the music ranges from heartfelt ballads to the super boppy “Drive It Like You Stole It.” The tunes alone make the film worth a watch–especially for those who are slightly addicted to 80’s music and movies–but it’s the characters and the story surrounding all that Pop that makes the film more than just a fun flick to watch on a Summer afternoon.
It’s not often I feel tears welling up while watching a film (I’ve only cried during one movie in recent memory and that was Frankenweenie–I ask you not to judge), but I was holding back the waterworks all through Sing Street. Somehow, Carney successfully managed to break my heart into ittybitty pieces thanks to Conor, Raphina, and all the gang. With these sorts of films, you’re never guaranteed a happy ending so in spite laughing at the band’s antics and nodding along to the music, I was genuinely worried about these characters getting into serious trouble–a feat, really, since the film clocks in at under two hours. A lot of films (much longer that this one) fail to make you truly care about the characters. Carney manages to draw brilliant performances out of his young actors all while staging a catchy musical. It’s beyond impressive.
Speaking of the performances, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo was amazing as Conor. Not only does he have a lovely singing voice, but he portrayed his character with such depth that it’s shocking he was only seventeen when the film was released. Jack Reynor, who played Conor’s older brother, was also frightfully good in his small role. Before Sing Street, I was rather fond of Reynor’s performance in Royal Night Out. He has a Chris Pratt likeability about him, and I have a feeling he’ll be showing up a lot more in the future (hopefully, instead of Chris Pratt). As for Lucy Boynton as Raphina? Well, I’ll get to her in a moment.
First, I absolutely must talk about my two favorite moments in the film. The first is the “Drive It Like You Mean It” music video. In context, it’s a happy/sad scene that fractures reality with a perfect, pastel fantasy. Conor tries filming a music video in his school and it doesn’t go according to plan. Instead of the real product, however, we see what Conor wanted it to be like–complete with everyone in 50’s attire, his mother and father happily dancing together, and Raphina in the audience staring adoringly at him. None of that is remotely reality. Instead, he’s in a sad, dreary gym with some really awful dancers playing the audience. It’s a heartbreaking scene wrapped up in a bubblegum, 1950’s venere. Watching “Drive It Like You Stole It,” I was in awe of how perfectly the layers in that scene were pulled off.
My second favorite scene was by far quieter but no less impressive. About midway through, we finally see Raphina listening to Conor’s music by herself. She’s in her bedroom, taking off her makeup, and she puts in his tape. As she listens to him singing for her, she begins to crumble. This is the first time we see her without her “Cool Chick” armor, and it quickly becomes apparent that she’s much younger and more vulnerable than she appeared. Up until that moment, it was possible that she was going to be nothing more than Conor’s teenage fantasy in the flesh, but that scene reveals she’s more than just some perfect, dream girl. She’s someone who’s broken and it genuinely shocks her that this boy properly sees her. I was blown away by Lucy Boynton’s acting in that scene. Over the course of the film, Boynton presents so many different sides to Raphina that I was constantly surprised by how good she was in the role. If she doesn’t become a famous actress sometime in the near future, I will be absolutely shocked.
Sing Street is genuinely one of the best films I’ve ever seen, and I don’t say that lightly. Between the plot, performances, and overall storytelling, the film was breathtaking to behold. While I was a fan of Carney’s Begin Again, it’s nowhere near the same level of as this film. (That’s not saying you should skip Begin Again. It is very good.) If you’ve ever liked a movie about first love and big dreams, Sing Street is for you.
If You Liked Sing Street, Also Check Out. . .
- Begin Again
What’s your favorite film musical?