John Carney is saving the world through music, one movie at a time. Begin Again gave me the inspiration I needed at a low point in my career, showing me that no matter how much you lose, there’s always something you can create and a way to get it out there. Sing Street shows how music can empower people who’ve been neglected, rejected or even abused and become who they want to be.
Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) starts a band with his high school friends to impress a girl, as boys tend to do. Taking a cue from the British pop of the era (this is Dublin 1985), the band Sing Street makes videos for their original songs on their way to playing a gig. The girl is Raphina (Lucy Boynton), an aspiring model who helps Sing Street with their look.
Writer/director Carney explores the subtle ways in which being creative impacts Conor’s character. Carney’s specialty is music but it could be universal for any artistic passion or even sports or clubs. The boys go from badly covering Duran Duran to developing their original voice and instrumental skills. Their videos get more ambitious, but they are unphased by their early, clumsy ones. They possess an unwavering belief that they are creating art, and it’s adorable.
The film is imbued with music philosophy, like a Nick Hornby book or Cameron Crowe movie circa Almost Famous, or rather like a John Carney movie. Conor’s older brother (Jack Reynor) may be his Lester Bangs. The soundtrack includes classics from Duran Duran, Hall and Oates, Starship and more, but even more engaging are rearranged instrumental score versions of the likes of Ah-hah. Most importantly, we get brand new ‘80s Brit Pop via the Sing Street originals.
I may not have been in the perfect point in my life journey for Sing Street to speak to me the way Begin Again did, but I can look back and appreciate what it means. By the time Carney stages a fantasy of the music video they imagine they’re shooting with full Hollywood resources, it brings everything together: the family drama, the sibling story, the love story and the heroic standing up to authority.
Becoming a musician empowers Conor with a bully because he can take a beating and write a song about it, and it empowers the bully to join something instead of hating on it. They stand up to repressive authority, a Christian headmaster who doesn’t allow unconventional expression. It doesn’t heal his broken family, but it gives him a new one.
Sing Street is Carney operating at his peak ability with peak resources. He may be going in reverse order chronologically, so a kid can be inspired by Sing Street and then discover Begin Again as he gets older, and then Once. Either way, I want the soundtrack and am happy to discover this cast of some new faces and many up and comers solidifying their star power.