1985 Dublin, Ireland. Young people are headed to London by the ferry load to search for work. 15 year old Conor (Ferida Walsh-Peelo) sees the hard times hit him directly as his father Robert (Aidan Gillen) is not getting any new work as an architect while his mom Penny (Mary Doyle Kennedy) is down to working 3 days a week. To ease the family burden Connor has to leave the private Jesuit school to attend the rough and seedy Christian Brothers run State school on Synge Street. Here Conor has to try to survive while being confronted by morons, rapist and bullies on a daily basis. After a particularly rough encounter with the school bully Barry (Ian Kenny) Conor meets Darren (Ben Carolan) a budding business man who teams up with Conor to start a band as he has promised to put local aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton) in his band's videos.
As the band takes shape the key member is Eamon (Mark McKenna) a songwriter who can play just about every instrument alongside African Ngig (Percy Chamburuka) to give the outfit street cred plus a rhythm section that answered the bands ad on the school bulletin board. They start out rough trying to be a cover band until Conor's wise older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) tells his sibling to do his own songs.
Writer director John Carney went back to his roots to tell the story of a young lad thrown into a foreign situation who uses the power of music to gain confidence, stand up to his rivals and garner attention from the girl that he likes. Carney also had a hand in writing the original songs that are natural head bobbers and foot tappers fitting in well with the vast catalogue of mid 80's Brit pop from the time. Conor spends many a night in his brother's room learning about new bands and life itself. Brendan introduces him to Joe Jackson, The Jam and sings the praises of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet when their videos appear on Top of the Pops. Brendan flings at him The Head on the Door album by the Cure when Conor wants to know more about Raphina's term Happy-Sad.
The fresh-faced cast don't set a foot wrong in their roles. Ferida Walsh-Peelo shines as Conor using the pain from a difficult home life and trouble at school to fuel his art. Lucy Boynton has her own demos to fight as Raphina. She resides in a home for girls having had complexed relationships with both of her parents. Raphina is prone to fantasy determined to get to London to model thinking she has found an older fellow to get her there. Jack Reynor continues a run of strong roles as Brendan. The older wiser college dropout brother who has a tuned ear for music and a keen eye for reading people.
Sing Street at its core an optimistic film that will appeal to both young people and older audience members who grew up during the time period of the film. Look for the running gag of Conor's march into the schoolyard dressed and coifed as the latest act seen on the Top of the Pops the night before. The soundtrack is a solid mix of 80's new wave hits and original tracks. It's a film that I can definitely recommend.
**** Out of 4.
Sing Street | John Carney | Ireland / UK / USA | 2016 | 106 Minutes.
Tags: Dublin, Jesuits, Christian Brothers, Duran Duran, The Cure, London, Brit pop, New Wave, School Dance, Legally Separated.