Set in Dublin circa 1985, shy and sensitive teenager Conor’s life is in turmoil: his parents are constantly fighting mostly due to poor economy in Ireland and subsequent underemployment/unemployment. To cut costs out of their budget, Conor’s parents take him out of his expensive Jesuit school and put him in a more moderately priced school run by “The Christian Brothers” located on Syng Street.
Conor (played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) copes with the turmoil by writing songs and playing his guitar in his room with the door shut.
On the first day of school, Conor gets bullied, makes a new friend, and meets the girl of his dreams, Raphina (played by Lucy Boynton.) Unfortunately, the girl of his dreams is a year older, very pretty (she says she’s a model) and seems aloof to Conor’s charms. Conor comes up with a plan to win her heart. He tells her he is in a band and would like to have her appear in his video. Except that Conor doesn’t have a band or a song. But that doesn’t deter him. Through his newly made friend (and now band manager), Conor meets another student, Eamon (played by Mark McKenna) who not only has access to a complete setup for a pop band, but also can play most of the instruments. The three easily recruit three other students with musical leanings to fill out their new band, named Sing Street, a play on words using the street where their school is located. Using Raphina as his inspiration, Conor concocts a not-half-bad song with Eamon, called “The Riddle of the Model.” The band plans a video shoot and invites Raphina.
Surprisingly, Raphina does show up for the video shoot but the results are predictably lame. However, Raphina start to see that Conor has potential.
Conor continues to write songs using Raphina as his muse. At the direction of his musically-wiser older brother, Conor begins to use other pop bands of the 1980s for stylistic and musical cues. Conor and his band change their look according to which pop band Conor is taking inspiration from. As Conor’s songs get better, Raphina finds herself falling for him.
Will Conor win Raphina’s heart? Suffice it to say that there are no surprises here. The movie ends as it should.
The cast is excellent. Well cast, Walsh-Peelo and Boynton have palpable chemistry. The high school kids look age-appropriate, not like they should be getting out of grad school.
The real star of Sing Street is the music. Several songs were written for the movie by director Jack Carney and musician/actor Glen Hansard (who collaborated on Once) evoke the musical styles of pop tunes written in the 80s, without being slavish copies.
Finally, music was the only escape for some in mid-80s Dublin, Ireland. With the failing economy, unemployment and the ever-oppressive Catholic Church, sometimes pop music was just the thing to make a grim life just a little brighter.
Worth a look if you get nostalgic about 1980s pop music.
Skip it if you were born in the 1980s; you probably won’t like it.
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