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Sing Street - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Sing Street
Directing: B
Acting: B
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+
Music: B+

Fictional character Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) goes to a real-life state school in Dublin called Synge Street CBS, which becomes the play on words used for the name of the band he forms off the cuff in just a few days with fellow school mates: Sing Street. And that, as you no doubt already figured out, is also the name of this movie.

And Sing Street is fun in its way, retro in more ways than it seems at first, right down to the plotting and the dialogue delivery. It doesn't just feel like nostalgia for the eighties; it feels like watching a movie that's actually from the eighties. Maybe you have to be over forty to really feel that. I'm not sure how many people much younger will bother to see this movie anyway, as it's in English but still technically a foreign film, an Irish movie featuring Irish characters with often thick Irish accents. There are some references to and reverence of American culture, but mostly these characters dream of getting out of Dublin and across the water to London.

Conor is bullied at school, both by a fellow student and by the Catholic school headmaster. Music proves to be not his escape but his way of rising above it. His adored, stoner older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), exalts the power of music videos on MTV, and before he even has a thought of actually making the music needed for it, Conor decides he wants to make such a video. There's a girl who keeps standing silently across the street from his school, Raphina (Lucy Boynton), and Conor approaches her to ask if she'll appear in the video. She seems charmed by him and agrees. So, Conor has to round up some friends and other students, and movie-magically manages it in the time it takes to make a montage. This isn't some small, three- or four-person band, either. A best friend helps Conor write songs. Two kids from the school answer a flyer and become the bassist and drummer. They even get the one black kid in their school to be in the band as the keyboard player to give their band some, in their minds, music cred.

They way this all comes together is patently contrived, as is most of the story arc in this movie. Where writer-director John Carney hooks you is with the original music, turning Sing Street into a pseudo-musical -- think Once (which Carney also wrote and directed), but far more lighthearted. The thing that made Once more believable was the realism of the character musicians' ages and their musical ability. Here, these kids form an impromptu band, and suddenly they're making these great, catchy songs. I kept thinking I might actually buy the soundtrack to this one. The songs are the best thing about this movie.

But the music videos the kids make are really well done as well. They're perfectly evocative of both eighties visual sensibilities and what young students would likely have done as amateur projects with a VHS home video recorder. Raphina is game and proves a remarkable presence on their screen. The pop songs have memorable hooks.

I just wish the story itself had more depth. Conor and Brendan's parents, played by the disappointingly underused Maria Doyle Kennedy and Aidan Gillen (he being known by most as Petyr Baelish on Game of Thrones), are going through a divorce. Sing Street could have used a tad more about them and how they are affecting their three kids (Conor and Brendan also have a sister, but, like the parents, we don't see much of her). Instead, Carney keeps them at arm's length, instead focusing on Brendan's musicality -- which, by the way, focuses almost exclusively on his affection for Raphina and never really connects with his volatile home life.

Much like any music video, Sing Street is oversimplified to the point of not being particularly memorable. But it's still an enjoyable watch, since there's so much fun music in it, and if there's anything memorable about it, it's the music.

Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and his band tear up SING STREET.

Overall: B
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