A song in our hearts5/18/2016
Starring: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Jack Reynor, Lucy Boynton
In 2007, Irish writer/director John Carney teamed with Irish singer/songwriter Glen Hansard to create a movie called “Once.” A love story that revealed most of its bittersweet, heart-aching tale through Hansard’s original music, “Once” was an immediate fan favorite, despite Hansard’s ability to make grown people cry with little more than a whiff of one of his songs.
Fast forward a decade, and Carney has apparently decided to answer the question “What would ‘Once’ have been like if it did not make everyone want to slit their wrists and cry quietly in a warm tub?” The answer, resoundingly, is “Sing Street.”
Set in work-depressed Dublin of the 1980s, “Sing Street” follows young Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a 15-year-old Irish lad whose parents are on the verge of divorce and who have pulled him from his private high school and transferred him to the local Catholic school — Synge Street — in an effort to save money. After the typical rough start, where he is threatened by the school bully and generally has difficulty fitting in, Cosmo meets Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a school dropout who is a year older than Cosmo and is hoping to move to London to pursue a career in modeling. Immediately finding himself helpless against her beauty and aloof personality, Cosmo seeks to win her over by asking her to star in a music video he is filming for his band — a band that, as of that particular moment, does not yet exist.
With a plan now firmly in mind, Cosmo sets out to create his band with the help of Darren, his lone school friend, and Brendan, his stoner, college drop-out, music-obsessed, older brother played by Jack Reynor, who steals every scene he is in. From there, much like with “Once,” the story plays out primarily through song. However, where Carney’s previous film’s story has a leaden, morose feel that comes with watching a relationship that is doomed from the start, “Sing Street” is much more upbeat in its telling, and the ’80s new wave-inspired songs are endlessly fun.
Carney has a good eye as a director, but his script is where “Sing Street” really shines brightest. Not only do Cosmo’s original songs perfectly capture the feel of 1980s new wave and synth pop, but the film does a magnificent job of fulfilling that old adage “show, don’t tell.” Several moments are hinted at, or alluded to, through dialogue, but are only brought to full fruition through the physical reactions of the actors themselves. In one scene, Raphina — who is living in a public foster home — makes an oblique reference to a deep family trauma. It is done in such a way that you might miss it entirely if you are not paying attention to every word said. Because rather than beat the audience over the head with heavy-handed dialogue, it is in Cosmo’s reaction to her words that the gravity of the revelation is driven home.
“Sing Street” is, much like “Once,” a story about relationships. But where “Once” showed us one and hinted at two others, “Sing Street” plays several out on screen, each to excellent effect. There is the love story between Cosmo and Raphina, of course, but we also witness the tearing down of his parents’ marriage, and we watch the relationship between Cosmo and Brendan strengthen as they grow to understand one another better. Finally, there is the relationship between Cosmo and Eamon, his guitar player and co-songwriter, and the scenes between the two of them are some of the most sublime in the entire film. CV