Sing Street: A Review
It’s hard to resist comparisons to Once with John Carney’s new film. They’re both set in Dublin and have romance and creating music as central themes. But really that’s where the similarities stop. Once is a film with a limited focus telling a story of two people over a few days. It’s an excellent film because of this limited scope which is then aided by the low budget, home style camera work.
Sing Street is much broader in focus. The central story is pretty simple: boy creates band to impress a girl. But there’s a lot more going on in this film. Set against a backdrop of his parent’s crumbling marriage the film also touches on sibling comradery, difficulty with changing schools, the transformative power of music and the limits of possibility in a small city. The film itself is halfway between a gritty kitchen-sink drama and a fantasy story where dreams come true. It doesn’t sound like there should even be a possible middle ground between those realms that should work but it does.
The film’s major false step is when the band tries to recruit the one black student at the school. I understand the 80s were a time when racial stereotyping was more blatant and that the film is trying to make a point about comedy of idiocy. But it doesn’t really work at all and it’s a false note in the rhythm. But it’s not a major drawback.
I’d be perfectly happy for John Carney to keep making films about people making music together. It’s pretty much his niche and no one else can do films like this. They just don’t have his vision to craft this musical word combined with a romantic backdrop steeped in reality.
Romantic is probably the best adjective for the story, as much as musical is for the whole film (musical probably fits the story as well). Is there anything really more universally relatable than a high school story about young love? I’d be inclined to think there isn’t. While it isn’t that setting that drives the likeability of the film, it’s definitely a huge helper.
Soundtracks are what drive this film (as with all the films from John Carney). The music is excellent, both the original songs and the popular records of the time (the film is set in 1985). By using everything from Duran Duran to Hall and Oates, it throws the viewer straight back into the era and gives them new stuff to have stuck in their heads afterwards.
Possibly one of the best high school films of recent times. Definitely one of the best films about music of the century. Undisputedly one of the films of the year.