As the lackluster summer blockbuster season comes to a close, the best film of the year thus far is John Carney’s (Once, Begin Again) little-seen gem Sing Street.
To impress a girl, Conor “Cosmo,” a lad in 1980s Dublin, starts a band with the help of his classmates at Synge Street Christian Brothers School.
The film is brimming with so much cheery optimism that it’s understandable if you’d think it’s a bit too cookie-cutter cute, but it’s not. Sing Street is framed by a realism that gives way to imaginative flights of fancy, almost as if the characters are using their creative minds to cope with the impoverished life of 1985 Ireland.
Make no mistake, there are some dark things happening to these characters (homophobia, sexual abuse from a parent, children dealing with their parents’ divorce), but they’re only hinted at, leaving the audience to fill in the gaps. And if these subtle hints fly over your head, don’t fret. Sing Street is just as great a film on a superficial level. In fact, its superficiality is what makes the film so great. It lures you in with catchy tunes and the always vicarious starting-a-band plot and then, when you’re already completely in love with these characters, you learn more about them and grow to love them even further.
Arguably the best thing about this movie is how it manages to capture the creative energy involved in making music. That energy comes through in each of the songs the boys create. As their skills improve and their musical tastes evolve, their songs become better and better. You should definitely reserve the infectious soundtrack, or stream it on Hoopla.
I was in a band once. Well, that’s not entirely true. For Christmas one year, a friend and I decided to make a CD of Christmas song covers (like “Baby, It’s Cold Outside“) as a cheap gift. It was really fun and, through my friend’s outstanding mixing skills (and more than a lot of autotune), we put together something that wasn’t entirely terrible. If you listen to that cover linked above, he’s the one who sounds like an angel and I’m the one who sounds like calf simultaneously being birthed and passing a huge kidney stone. Hey, the important thing is we had a blast and everyone I gave a CD to lied to me and told me they loved it, even though I’m about as musically talented as a cat.
Sing Street is a multi-layered film, and one of those layers is about the importance of the bonds of brotherhood—both familial and otherwise. The film even closes out with a dedication “For brothers everywhere.” Cosmo and his bandmates become brothers through their shared passion, but Cosmo also has an older brother who acts as a music critic and introduces him to other great music. As the older brother of a crazy-talented musician, I have to admit I teared up at the end and want to take this moment to say if you have a talent, you should definitely use it.
With delightful homages to great bands like Duran Duran, The Cure and Hall & Oates, Sing Street is a brilliant coming-of-age tale that deserves a spot right next to recent greats like The Way, Way Back and Dope. This now completes my trifecta of posts about materials that take place during the ’80s. Tubular!
Bored with blockbuster bravado?Check out Sing Street
Ross works as a Clerk at the Mt. Washington branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He loves reading books and watching movies and will often ramble about the two here. He’s never started a band to impress a girl, has probably never impressed a girl.