Director: John Carney
Stars: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Jack Reynor
3 (out of 5) Globes
There’s almost always a solidarity motivation as to why teenage boys start a rock band — to get girls. This writer speaks from a place of no personal knowledge of this —not being male, or Irish, or a teenage product of the ‘80s — but this practically universal truth is cemented in place by films like “Sing Street.” Writer-director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”) weaves the tale of square peg Dublin teen Connor “Cosmo” McKenna (played by 16-year-old newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who recruits his classmates to form a band to deal with his parents’ failing marriage, fulfill his stoner older brother’s shortcomings, and yes, impress a girl.
The band — dubbed Sing Street after the prison-like, inconsolably bleak boys’ school he’s sent to attend — features a ragtag entourage of teenage boys with somewhat unbelievably intuitive levels of musical talent. They pen original tunes and make VHS-recorded home music videos featuring an aspiring model and the focus of Cosmo’s affections, Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who whips the boys into an appropriate aesthetic level of '80s cool.
“Sing Street” is more than wish fulfillment on Carney’s part — admittedly semi-auto-biographical, with Jack Reynor’s Brendan representing Carney’s late older brother Jim. Sing Street is a thinly veiled jab at his alma matter, Synge Street — with an unavoidable overarching message that sinks deeper than the satisfaction of getting the girl and making cool music. It’s sweet, but it can be stifling. The film stumbles in making sure you get it, right down to the point of spelling it out before the credits roll.
However, there’s greatness in the grit of Cosmo’s more shockingly unpleasant interactions, including a violent throwdown with the school’s principal/head priest who forced the teen’s makeup-laden face into a bathroom sink, seething, “No more, Ziggy Stardust.” Or his helpless melancholy as he watches his feuding parents (Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy) choose to consciously uncouple, as divorce is not yet legal in the '80s in Ireland.