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Sing Street
Genre Music

Sing Street is the third film from the passionate and prolific John Carney, and he makes it difficult not to notice with his name appearing again and again in the opening credits. All three of his films have been coming-of-age dramas that infuse music and romance, using a central romantic relationship to drive the characters and catchy music to reinforce the heart of the story.

Once, his first film, was a low-budget love affair between a vacuum cleaner turned busker and a immigrant pianist. The likable characters and soulful music lifted the music romance drama, which could have easily been an advert for the amazing soundtrack. Then, Begin Again, saw Carney move from Europe to America… more specifically New York, using the heartfelt tone of Once and stars like Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley to create a Hollywood version.

Sing Street sees him return to Europe, going back in time to Dublin, Ireland in the mid-1980s, scaling back on Hollywood names to deliver a music romance drama that blends elements from his first two films. You could describe it as Spud, if young John Milton formed an '80s rock band with the Crazy Eights. We journey with Connor, a fifteen-year-old Irish kid, whose family have fallen on tough times with his parents on the brink of separation. Moving to a rough Catholic school, he puts his personal problems aside after persuading a beautiful girl to star in his band's music video.

The characters are compelling and their optimism against the odds is refreshing as they make a go of it despite feeling like everything is against them. Other than Game of Thrones's Aidan Gillen as Connor's father, Robert, in a small supporting performance, it's an unknown cast.

Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is reminiscent of young Troye Sivan, who took on the role of John "Spud" Milton. He is naive and vulnerable, yet harbours a growing defiance and tenacity, which feeds on small acts of confidence. As the bandleader, he musters his troops one by one and turns them into a nerdy gang of musos, who demand respect with style and street cred.

Beyond the band of underdogs, Walsh-Peelo pushes off his stoner dropout brother, Brendan, played by Jack Reynor in a role similar to Jack Black in School of Rock. His grunge stylings and vast musical knowledge helps define Connor as he advises and guides his little brother. Reynor oozes cool as a defiant, misunderstood yet surprisingly wise substitute father figure. Walsh-Peelo also shares some terrific on-screen chemistry with Lucy Boynton as Raphina, who makes a stunningly beautiful and enigmatic muse for Connor.

Set in the '80s, Sing Street is partly a tribute to the pop music of the decade which come to be major influences for his "futurist band". Watching Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet music videos and taking a special interest in The Cure, he and his ragtag bunch of misfits seek to create art. After some amusing fashion, make-up transitions and some camp home music video creations that would make Flight of the Conchords look good, they progress to making some catchy and heartfelt numbers of their own.

The tone is naive, ambitious and optimistic, yet "happy-sad". Carney makes the film more about the feelgood, however there is also a social commentary at play. The backdrop is similar to the sitcom Moone Boy, finding our protagonist in a hard-pressed economy and attending a school where the socio-economic pressures have a direct bearing on the children. Coming from abusive homes and entering an ill-disciplined education system, Connor is faced with bullying from students and an unstable Brother acting as headmaster and chief disciplinarian.

Sing Street is a joy to watch. While it traverses some harsh terrain in terms of drama, it's affinity with Back to the Future, keeps it infectiously upbeat and heartfelt as a comedy, while the '80s music tribute and solid original songs fill in the gaps. It's an uplifting coming-of-age ode to following your dreams with some star-making performances, and powered home by John Carney's insightful writing and intuitive direction.

The bottom line: Winning

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