'Cause I'm like the lead singer of a band dude
Sing Street is directed and written by John Carney and stars Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Aidan Gillen, Jack Reynor, and Kelly Thornton.
Much of what music embodied in the decades leading up to and including the 1980's is on display in John Carney's Sing Street: a coming-of-age film that explores youth, creation, rebellion, and the pure joys of playing music. It feels like a movie that should have come out during those decades, instead of being released in the year 2016 and thus serving as a sort of retrospective examination of how young musicians played and behaved back then. That's not to say young folks today aren't forming bands and creating music videos. Since Sing Street is a movie taking place in the 1980's, I want to believe that one of John Carney's hopes is to give us a reminder of how powerful that music was to people of all ages back in the day and how that continues to be true today.
Here comes a question I was hoping not to ask: Why did I not feel the least bit jubilant or inspired by Sing Street? I am not a musician myself (I was a violin player during my grade school years), so that is to say that Sing Street did not strike any kind of personal chord of mine. But that wasn't why I wasn't fully satisfied with the film. Something about Sing Street didn't seem right to me, and after thinking it over in a near 24 hour span, I think I've come up with a proper answer, which I'll save until my low points.
Moving on to the plot, Sing Street focuses on young Conor Lawler (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), whose parents are on the brink of divorce and struggling with finances. Conor's father Robert (Aidan Gillen) decides to move Conor into a strict Christian Brothers school: Synge Street CBS. Things get off to a rough start for Conor: he gets picked on by a bully named Barry (Ian Kenny) and is called out by the principal, Br. Baxter (Don Wyherley), for not having black shoes that are a part of the school's uniform code. While walking to school one day, Conor notices the beautiful Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who is aspiring to move away to London and become a model. In an attempt to impress her, Conor tells Raphina that he is the lead singer in a band, and he invites her to be a part of a music video that the band is working on. However, the band that Conor claims to be a part of doesn't exist....yet. With the help of his new friend, Darren (Ben Carolan), Conor is able to recruit various young musicians to become part of his band which is given the name Sing Street. Conor also gets some helpful advice from his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor).
- By no means did I find Sing Street to be a terrible film. It has a sweet-natured, albeit familiar, story that's supported by its love for creation and what music can mean to someone. Conor and the rest of his band-mates are tired of their dreary home lives and are itching to do something with themselves and break out of their funks. Struggles at home and at school are what inspire Conor to write song lyrics, and by writing lyrics and later singing them, Conor comes to realize how much he loves to get lost in his music and temporarily escape from the problems he is faced with. Instead of wallowing in self-pity and cursing at the way his family and school lives are, he spins them on their ugly heads and uses them to create something meaningful.
- Now back to that question I brought up earlier. Why exactly was I not won over by Sing Street? As well-meaning as Sing Street is and as much as it likes to explore how playing music affects its character, the sad reality is that the songs present in the film are not very good. The first major song, "The Riddle of the Model", is an iffy piece of work that sounds like a band making a rough first recording but deciding to go with it anyway, the only discernible lyrics being when Conor sings the song title. Later songs sung at a school dance in a Back to the Future-inspired setting also have obscure lyrics and, really, are just plain forgettable. Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and several of the other actors have pretty thick Irish accents, and John Carney didn't seem to take into account the fact that several lines of dialogue, on top of the singing, are buried underneath these heavy accents.
- Sing Street also features an ending that borderlines too much on Disney fairy tale, while at the same time leaving some if its subplots left dangling with no sense of completion. The movie falls so much in love with its two central characters that it pretty much forgets about the other members of the band, his school, the bully he runs into, the principal, all who are left in the dark. What's going to happen to the band if Conor leaves? It'll probably break up, but who knows? What's going to happen with Conor's school? Don't care. Did Conor and the bully find a way to end on good terms? Also don't care. There is some closure brought to the subplots involving Conor's parents and his brother Brendan, but it's rather rushed closure that's more about getting those characters out of the way so that the movie can go all in with Conor and Raphina. I found it to be rather lazy storytelling just for the sake of trying to get as sugary sweet of an ending as possible, and even then, I didn't find the ending to be at all sugary sweet.
Music enthusiasts, people who play music for a living, and pretty much anyone else whose life is not complete without music should love and adore Sing Street, a musical film that gives a nice little nostalgic throwback to the effects that music had on people's lives back in the day, and how those effects are still present in people today. But while there may be inspiration to be had, the film simply doesn't feature enough good music nor worthwhile storytelling so as to get its full, intended effect. Maybe it's the fact that I'm not a musician is what is keeping me from seeing the film the way it should be seen. I may not have that musician eye, but I do know this: just because you have musical ambition, it doesn't mean you're always going to be successful.
Recommend? If you're a musician of some kind, then yes. Otherwise, no.
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