I had a feeling I would love this movie the minute I saw (and heard) the trailer; the music, the fashion and hair, the school setting in Dublin in the 1980s, what’s not to love? As soon as I heard music by The Cure, Hall and Oates and Duran Duran, it was decided – I just had to see Sing Street as soon as humanly possible.
The movie portrayed excellently what it was like growing up in Dublin in the 80s, during a particularly devastating and violent time in Irish history. We are offered this flashback in time through the eyes of Conor “Cosmo” Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). The movie is a semi-autobiographical depiction of Director John Carney’s adolescence in Dublin, with Carney having input in the writing of original songs for the movie (including “Riddle of the Model” and “Drive it Like You Stole it”). The latter song won Sing Street an award for Best Original Song at the 2016 Nashville Film Festival These new songs are instant hits and have that special 80’s sound, much like the rest of the film’s soundtrack.
Conor turns to music and created a band (called Sing Street) with schoolmates, initially to impress a budding female model (Raphina, played by Lucy Boynton). The band was a symbol of brotherhood, friendship, love, and hope. The band experienced everything together, every remark from the schoolyard bullies, every fashion craze and every sideways glance while wearing matching Spandau Ballet style hats or touting hairdos and make up inspired by Robert Smith. The audience learnt that friendship through music knows no boundaries and there is a place for everyone to feel welcomed.
Conor and his siblings were coming to terms with their tense family life as their parents’ marriage was breaking down, and due to financial pressures he was moved to the local Catholic school where he encountered bullying from his peers and abuse at the hands of his teachers. Conor appeared to be a reserved and sensitive boy, trying to find his identity amongst a world of chaos around him. Political correctness was starting to seep into society, as the movie delicately touched on, with Conor questioning his bandmates on their use of the word ‘golliwog’, when they were looking to include a black band member because they thought it would make them more hip.
Sing Street gave Conor courage to find his voice to stand up to his oppressors, the bullies and abusive teachers, and enabled him to grow. Music was the lens through which Conor experienced and was able to deal with all of life’s events and rites of passage including love, happiness, grief and loss. Conor eventually used music as his main form of communication and as an outlet to release his emotions.
Conor also developed a strong and raw connection with his older brother (Brendan, played by Jack Reynor, who won Best Supporting Actor at the 2016 Irish Film & TV Awards for this role) through their shared love of music. Brendan helped Conor develop his playing and writing of music and inspired his passion in the first place, being a constant source of advice: “no woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins”. Together they were able to persevere through many trying moments in their life. A memorable moment in the movie occurred when the siblings were bonding while dancing to ‘Maneater’ by Hall and Oates, to drown out the sound of their parents screaming at each other.
Conor’s newfound courage and strength inspired him to turn much negativity into opportunities for his advantage. He may not have followed the typical path or one that those in his life (or the film viewers) expected him to choose, but he forged his own destiny. As the movie ended and the credits started to roll, I was crying tears of joy and inspiration, and Sing Street had become my new favourite movie.
Reviewed by Genevieve Danenberg.
Sing Street is still playing at Palace Nova in the city and GU Filmhouse, Glenelg.