Knowing next to nothing about the film, I was hesitant to buy into the hype surrounding Sing Street. The posters made Ferdia Walsh-Peelo’s Conor look like a poor Billy Joe Armstrong knockoff and the 80’s aesthetic reeked of false nostalgia. While John Carney’s Once is one of my favorite film musicals, I was disappointed in Begin Again and was afraid his directorial debut was a flash in the pan. However, I was eventually worn down by a certain writer from this site and was willing to give it a chance. I was surprised to be greeted not only by one of my favorite films of the year, but also by a work of art that touched me in a way I could never have expected.
Sing Street is endlessly positive in a way that feels almost essential in what has turned out to be a cold and bleak year. John Carney fills his film with an optimism that is infectious, never ceasing to please audiences with smile-inducing musical numbers even at the lowest points for our characters. Even in sequences like the one surrounding “Drive It Like You Stole It” that are charmingly cheese-filled and mawkish on the surface (the homage to Back to the Future is incredibly well done), but the glee and charm on display is a mere façade given the known underlying heartache Conor feels. It is in these moments, where most films would play up the melodrama and attempt to tug on the audience’s heartstrings, where Sing Street shines–It never loses sight of the joyful passion and innocent charm of its protagonist.
Witnessing the failure of his parents’ marriage and his newfound isolation after changing schools, Conor Lalor navigates this world through his music. After a chance encounter with amateur model Raphina (Lucy Boynton), he is inspired to form a band out of a misfit group of fellow students, each searching for an identity in the conformist Synge Street catholic school. Conor’s confidence, ever growing with each song, leads him to fall in and out of love, deepen his relationship with his wayward brother (Jack Reynor in one of the best performances of the year), and stand up both to his parents as well as the educators who attempt to deny him his passion.
Being an amateur musician myself, there was nothing cooler as a teenager than the guy who could sing, play guitar, and get the girl. It was the dream of many an adolescent rock-n-roller, and Conor’s journey filled me with warmth and reminded me of the imagination of my youth. Carney, who himself played bass in the band The Frames (with Once star Glen Hansard), understands this feeling and injects that excitement into every frame of the film. While the idea of forming a band with friends, performing for an audience, and running off to the big city to sign a record deal was a mere fantasy, seeing that vision on screen was as vivid and tangible as the seat I’m sitting in. It genuinely feels like someone took the best dreams of a 15-year-old me and committed them to screen.
Sing Street is, without a doubt, one of the best films of 2016, and possibly its most indispensable. It is a love letter to the reckless optimism of youth, seeking happiness in an environment trying to force cynicism and misanthropy down our throats. It’s a film that will bring tears to your eyes, a smile to your face, and jubilation to your heart. Earnest and sincere, the film spends its runtime wearing its heart on its sleeve.
Sing Street is available to stream on Netflix Instant.