Music, like any other art form, is therapeutic. It can be used to both escape reality and face it. It can make you extremely confident or incredibly vulnerable, especially when you create it. It helps you grow and grows with you. John Carney’s latest musical endeavor Sing Street explores this relationship between music and its creator.
Set in 1985 Dublin, the film follows a boy named Connor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) as he forms a band in order to woo Raphina (Lucy Boynton), the girl he fancies. Yet with the music he creates, he doesn’t simply gather courage to befriend Raphina. He also gains the confidence he needs to embrace his individuality and follow his passion.
Based on the premise alone, Sing Street sounds like the average teen romance. To a certain extent, it is. The plot is rather predictable, as is Connor’s character arc. However, the film is full of moments that contradict the typical, adding unexpected depth to its characters. Standout performances by Lucy Boynton and Jack Reynor make both their characters relatable, if not tragic. In another film, Boynton’s character would have been the trite unattainable crush and Reynor’s character would have been treated as the peripheral older brother the protagonist hopes to become. Sing Street is aware of the clichés and manages to offer something more.
The film also doesn’t shy away from complex themes like toxic masculinity. The recent passing of David Bowie and Prince makes certain scenes bittersweet as Connor challenges gender norms through his appearance.
But the true star of the movie is the music. With John Carney, a fantastic soundtrack is expected. Sing Street is at its strongest when the band is performing. Carney’s original songs beautifully propel the story forward and are great homages to the music of that time. “Drive It Like You Stole It” and “Up” in particular will get stuck in your head. In fact, you will love them for it.
The music is so wonderful that at times, it undermines the film. Whenever the focus shifts away from the music, Sing Street becomes oddly quiet. Because of this, the film feels much longer than it is. Ironically, had the film dedicated more time to the other band members and made the group a more cohesive unit rather than “Connor and the Cosmos”, its pacing may have improved.
Sing Street’s most glaring weakness, however, is its ending. I won’t ruin it, but I will say that the tone feels disjointed from the rest of the film. It is completely unrealistic and lacks a cohesion with the rest of the story that leaves audiences disappointed. Sing Street didn’t know how to end and it shows.
If you could only take one lesson away from Sing Street, it is this: take the risk and make your dreams happen. If you at least try, you will be happier for it. To artists, the film is telling them to create. Even if what they end up creating is not exactly what’s in their head, it is one step closer to it. The film’s ending may be tonally disconcerting, but at least it doesn’t romanticize the risk. Although the story has its flaws, the music and performances make them worthwhile. Sing Street also introduces audiences to a group of young talents will likely appear in more films in the years to come.
Sing Street was released on April 29, 2016.