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Re:tro Re:view – Sing Street!

Jondee here at Dublin, 1985,


First, a little side story, I had the disc for Sing Street since October, it was only recently that I streamed it on Netflix so it has taken a long time to get to Sing Street which was released in April here. Strange that I took so long, but this film has catapulted to one of my favorites of 2016! John Carney is the writer and director of the movie that smacks of some autobiography here. He also wrote and directed Once (2007) also about singers in Dublin.  It reminded me of The Commitments (1991), the brilliant film by Alan Parker adapting Roddy Doyle’s novel about a working class band in Dublin. Maria Doyle Kennedy who plays the mother, Penny, in this film played Natalie Murphy in The Commitments, connection! The movie does the best job of capturing the 80’s, with songs by Duran Duran and The Cure, plus it’s own original songs. The film opens with young Conor played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo trying to play guitar while his parents argue. Ferdia is brilliant, he has the awkward music beginning, but you can tell there is more to him as a singer and a boy growing up.  He closes the door and starts to sing his parents arguing into lyrics, love it! Then, we get the setting. The television has news of the move to London because Ireland is in a weak economy. His older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor) announces a family meeting. Their father is Robert played by Aidan Gillen who plays Petyr `Littlefinger’ Baelish in Game of Thrones. He is announcing to his family that he is moving Conor to a free Catholic school, Synge Street. Brendan notes that Conor will be beaten there. Robert quotes the school’s Latin motto which means “Act manly.” Conor heads down the street in his school clothes, it is rough school, a bully sneers at him and there is a fight in the school yard. The students toss paper while the teacher drones on and takes a sip from his flask. Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley) walks in and the students stand at attention. Brother Baxter is not happy at Conor’s brown shoes since the school requires black shoes, but his family can’t afford new shoes. The bully, we later hear his name as Barry (Ian Kenny), offers him a smoke in the bathroom and then pulls a slingshot at his face to make him dance. He wants him to dance with his pants down, but Conor refuses and the bully walks away. Night, his mother calls him down for dinner, it is Tops of the Pops playing Duran Duran. Their sister, Ann (Kelly Thornton) wants to work on her essay. Brendan loves Duran Duran and tells him about John Taylor’s bass. He also tells his family about the music video as “the perfect mixture of music and visuals.”

He is confronted the next day by Brother Baxter and taken to his office where he tries to explain about having bought the shoes without knowing about the rules. Baxter says the shoes must be left at his office so Conor has to walk through school in his socks. At the canteen, he is socked by Barry and he takes his Mars bar. Everyone leaves except a ginger haired kid (Ben Carolan), who gives him advice. Brilliant kid, though afterwards I thought wow, he’s Danny Partridge! He gives him his business card, a piece of Darren Mulvey, Business Solutions. They see a girl across from the school with Pat Benatar hair, Raphina (Lucy Boynton) and Conor goes to talk to her. She says she’s a model, but can’t find work in Dublin. Conor offers to put her in a music video and shows her his producer, Darren. She wants him to sing A-Ha on the street and then gives him her digits. He tells Darren, “We need to form a band.” They go to the creative force of the band, Eamon (Mark McKenna), his mother is not impressed. He has instruments for a cover band, Easy Living, for weddings and can play them all. Darren knows a black guy and they put up a Futurist Band flyer at school. They knock at a door and find the mother who tells him to talk to her son, Ngig (Percy Chamburuka), who speaks perfect English. Two kids, Larry (Conor Hamilton) and Garry (Karl Rice) see the flyer for bass player and drummer. Darren comes up with Sing Street for the name of their band. They do the slo mo walk out of the room after smoking. They practice playing “Rio”, Conor sings off key, yup, rough, but there’s potential. They record the session and Brendan hears it before tearing it apart. He says, “It’s all about the girl.” Conor reads his lyrics to Darren, “The Riddle of the Model”, who plays some chords and slows it down for Conor. Darren changes it up and they work out the song. He gives the tape to and tells her the name of the song, she’s flattered. They are set up for the video shoot on a street, Larry has brought a cowboy outfit and vampire teeth. Raphina walks up, Darren is also the cameraman though he can’t quite operate the video camera, she likes Conor’s cheekbones. She also offers to do the make-up for the group. Barry sees the group wearing lipstick and his father smacks him. So 80’s love it! This film is one of the best movies about a fictional band, growing up with family problems, brothers, and of course a romance with someone who hasn’t fulfilled her dreams. I loaded the soundtrack from iTunes after seeing the film. It was a big hit at Sundance. Five Music Videos out of Five!