Sing Street Review: Rocking and Rolling You Back to the ’80s

There’s not much that you haven’t seen before in Sing Street. This is a small coming of age movie about a high school band forming, the romantic subjects of their songs, and their teachers fighting against the lack of conformity that is rock n’ roll. You’ve heard this story before, but the film manages to hit just about every note it intends to. There’s a precision at work here that makes this addition to the indie coming of age catalogue really sing.

Set in Dublin in 1985, the film focuses on 15-year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) as he finds himself at a new school and in a highly dysfunctional family. The beginning is a bit clunky, however. The film doesn’t quite sell the quick escalation of Conor’s journey from asking for a girl’s number to shooting music videos in the vein of Duran Duran and David Bowie. But once the band starts playing their songs and recognizing their own talent, the plot gets into a groove that doesn’t let up until the end credits.

It doesn’t hurt that the film has an EP’s worth of original songs that would have been smashes on the radio in the ’80s. This comes as no surprise with Once director John Carney at the helm. But they aren’t just present for the sake of good music. Each one plays in integral part in Conor’s arc over the film. Either way, you’ll leave the theater searching Spotify for the film’s soundtrack (it’s there).

But the heart and soul of Sing Street come from the brotherly relationship between Conor and his older, college drop-out brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor). As they navigate their parents’ ugly divorce on top of simply growing up, their relationship is pushed to a new level of community between them. Without this, the film would be missing a heart, as the romantic plot doesn’t quite catch-on as it does in some other, better coming of age indies. That’s okay, the brother relationship is far more interesting ground to cover in the circumstances of the story. Walsh-Peelo and Reynor play off each other excellently, grounding the film in real emotions.

So while Sing Street may not offer anything intrinsically new, it has enough going for it that it doesn’t matter so much. A smart cast, good writing, and a few knock-out rock songs are enough to keep this thing afloat. So long as you don’t expect ground to be broken, this is a fun little musical indie that most certainly flexes those ’80s nostalgia muscles. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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