It’s 1985 in Dublin, Ireland and life isn’t going well for young Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). His parents’ marriage is falling apart. His stoner older brother, Brendan, (Jack Raynor) has moved back home after dropping out of university, and his younger siblings are a pain the ass. Conor is also attending a repressive public school (private schools are called public schools in Ireland) where he is bullied by his classmates and one of his teachers seems to revile him.
However, there is one bright spot in Conor’s life, the beautiful and mysterious Raphina (Lucy Boynton), Raphina lives in group home and has dreams of becoming a model. Conor is smitten and decides to impress Raphina by telling her he’s in a band, and he needs a model to perform in his band’s videos.
There is one glitch, though. Conor isn’t in a band, but if he wants to capture Raphina’s heart he better form one right away. And he gets onto this monumental task by recruiting several talented lads at his school to form a band, write some songs and make some videos inspired by the top pop talents of the mid-eighties. In true rock and roll fashion, Conor changes his name to more rock-friendly Cosmo and hones a more stylish look, which often entails whatever certain musicians and singers are wearing in his favorite videos (and looks most pop and rock fans who remember the 1980s all too well, sported themselves).
Top of the Pops hits, videos on MTV and winning Raphina’s heart are Conor’s main goals in life, as is escaping his dreary home and school life. It isn’t long before Conor’s parents announce their separation. And to make matters worse, Conor also has someone else vying for Raphina’s heart, an older man with a bitchin’ ride. How can Conor compete with that?
Well, with his band, of course. Conor is proving to be quite compelling behind the microphone, and is writing songs with witty lyrics and catchy hooks. His bandmates are going from strength to strength as musicians. Helping him along the way, is Conor’s older brother, Brendon, who mentors his baby brother through the power of music and his extensive vinyl LP collection.
And then there is Raphina, the lovely Raphina, who adds just the right amount of female beauty and star quality to the band’s music. And though Raphina has a boyfriend with a bitchin’ car, she can’t help but warm up to Conor. Her cool girl veneer tapers off, and soon she feels comfortable to reveal more and more about herself and her less than ideal life at the group home, her parental history, and her fears of making it as a model, especially considering it hinges on leaving Dublin to London, more of a fashion mecca back in the day.
But despite all of these challenges, Conor and his band keep on reaching for rock and roll glory, which includes a talent show at his school, which thrills some people and leaves others, most notably Conor’s least favorite teacher, less than impressed.
Sing Street is a charmer of a film, one that rarely casts a false note in the expert film making hands of John Carney who directed 2007’s Once. The acting is exceptional, and everything from the mid-80s fashions to the look of 1985 Ireland rings true. Sure, at times, I questioned Conor’s almost genius way of crafting a proper pop lyric without breaking out in a sweat or facing any writer’s block, but at the same time I couldn’t help but tap my toes and bop in my seat every time these infectiously catchy songs were performed by the band or conveyed in the videos. And I must give a shout out to Jack Reynor who is a scene stealer as Conor’s older brother Brendon.
In the end, Sing Street fills you with hope, happy rock and roll memories, and singing a happy tune. It is a movie elixir that brings you joy, which is much needed in our troubling times. I can’t recommend it enough.