Quietly released in the United States in the spring of 2016 just to find a spot on Amazon Prime after a few months, Sing Street is a coming-of-age story about love in its broadest meaning. Fraternal love, passion for music, first crushes and friendship bonds all mash together in this moving effort from director John Carney (Begin Again, Once).
Conor (Ferda Walsh-Peelo) is a sensible 14-year-old stuck in an ‘80s Dublin that does not leave much room for diversity and exploration. Thanks to his brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), he finds out that music can help him win the heart of the girl he likes, the shy teenager decides to give birth to a band in order to impress her. The band – Sing Street – is an eclectic mix of quirky outsiders which adapt themselves and change along with the tunes which accompany new music videos on TV. The Cure, Duran Duran and Starship become a means to happiness and self-growth. Suddenly, the Catholic school that Conor and his friends are forced to attend feels more unbearable than ever, and still, it is inspirational in itself. It provides them with endless ways to channel frustrations and wishes for a better tomorrow.
Raphina (Lucy Boynton), Conor’s muse, with the naiveté which characterizes every 16-year-old, represents a mysterious door to a previously unexplored universe. She is stereotypical enough to capture the attention of anyone who has ever dreamed of “leaving this town, if only for a moment,” but she is never a cliché. On the contrary, she is the personification of those million hopes and desires that award adolescence with authenticity and excitement.
In the background, gloomy Dublin, with its provincial, desperate “bullied bullies” and school uniforms, is, at the same time, a dream-breaker and a motivation-giver. It is the chain which ties Sing Street together and incites them to ask for more and to never give up.
The main protagonist of the movie, however, remains its soundtrack: a melting-pot of classics such as In Between Days and Rio, and originals that fulfill every segment with different, relatable sensations which place the movie in the time-frame it tries to depict. As the music progresses and matures, so does the band and so do the costumes which the characters use to feel closer to the musicians they are trying to emulate. Black fluffy hair and red lipsticks a-la Robert Smith alternate colorful, big jackets and skinny jeans, in a triumph of soul-searching and personality-development.
John Carney’s appeal comes from yet another interpretation of nostalgia, but it graduates from it by trying to unveil emotions which are common to every generation: the longing to belong, to grow-up and to distance itself from what came before.