Director John Carney (Once, Begin Again) is certainly no stranger to films about, and featuring, original music. Sing Street is no exception, though this foray into the ‘futurist’ genre of the mid 80s is so well disguised as a cheerfully ironic Irish comedy, it is only much later that you realise you’ve sat through a musical. From the get-go, Sing Street drew me in with its colourful, idiosyncratic characters, like the unwaveringly ambitious Conor and his musically encyclopaedic brother Brendan. The film treads the line between a buddy-band comedy and a sweet romance set against a harsh backdrop. Ample screen time is given to the two mains – Conor, and the object of his infatuation, Raphina – with a couple of very memorable band scenes. In terms of balance, I would have liked to have seen more of a dynamic between the band members – particularly the drummer, keyboard and bassist – who were afforded very little screen time after the initial formation, but were a font of comedic potential. The magic of this film, however, lies in its writers’ and director’s clear obsession with the musical period. The best sequences looked into the boys’ inspiration from existing legends like Duran Duran or The Cure, as they changed their look, their music and sometimes their personalities to imitate them. Upon seeing the high quality production value and beautiful women of the Duran Duran music videos, the band make their own low-budget version in a Dublin back street to an absolutely spot-on original song called ‘The Riddle of The Model’.
So even though the film can slip from the comedic realism of Billy Elliot into some more unbelievable fairytale sequences, with some very underdeveloped characters and an ending that will divide audiences, the undeniable genius of the original songs, and the excellent performances from a young cast of Irish unknowns, makes Sing Street a film that will put a ridiculous grin on your face, even if you are a musical skeptic.
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