John Carney – the director and writer of the new drama Sing Street – has said his 1980’s coming of age film based in Dublin, is basically the fulfilment of everything he wished he’d been able to do but didn’t when he was the age of its central character Cosmo. After watching it you may well feel the same way.
Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is young and confused, growing up in 1980’s Dublin. With his parents on the verge of divorce, an affable, layabout, older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), and problems fitting into his new inner-city school, life is difficult to say the least. Events change for the better however, when he combines forces with a band of other school misfits, all of whom share one thing in common – a love of music – and decide to form their own group, ‘Sing Street’. Then he meets the beautiful and wild Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and everything changes.
How many of us haven’t desperately wanted to do something with our lives, but been held back from accomplishing our goals by shyness or self-doubt? Sing Street sets out – in a refreshingly un-glossed and unsentimental way – to show us the sense of liberation and achievement we can feel by overcoming those fears as well as the opinions of others. Cosmo’s relationships with both his family and the classmates and teachers he comes into contact every day, not only affect his self-confidence during his teenage years – a crucial time for anyone growing-up – but also push him forward and eventually bring him out of himself, ultimately helping him to achieve his dreams. Though this new sense of self-confidence initially manifests itself in his reinvention as a ‘New Romantic’ prodigy, it also forces him to break away from the confines and restrictions of home and the expectations of those around him – feelings which stifle many people – and to be himself.
As much as any of the psychological or social undercurrents of the film though, Sing Street is about the sounds, sights and ‘atmosphere’ of the 1980s, which it evokes perfectly. Those who grew up at the time will enjoy a nostalgic wallow in its recreation of the period through its clothing etc. More than this however is the use of the film’s soundtrack to bring memories of the era alive. It’s use of contemporary music by bands like Duran Duran and The Jam, as well as original music written in a similar style specifically for the film – much of which is performed by Walsh-Peelo, an accomplished singer in his own right – combine seamlessly, complementing the story perfectly as it unfolds on the screen. For everyone else, it will simply show what you missed by not experiencing this period first-hand. The cast – which combines talent new to the screen like Walsh-Peelo, with more familiar faces including Aidan Gillen (as Cosmo’s father Robert), best known for his role in the cult TV drama Queer as Folk – work perfectly together to give life to a group of people undergoing the trials and joys which we have all experienced at some time in our lives and which everyone can relate to, to some degree.
Sing Street finishes somewhat ambiguously, with an open-ended conclusion, which is the way it should be. No-one – including Cosmo – knows how their life will pan out. However, as the film illustrates, if you’re brave enough to be yourself, who knows where it will lead you.
Director: John Carney
Writer: John Carney
Stars: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen
Runtime: 106 mins
Countries: Ireland, UK, USA
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