Music Biopics may remain all the rage for studios right now, but music in general as the centre-piece of a story isn’t a common genre anymore. Certainly not like how it was back in the 80’s. So making a movie about a band growing up in the 80’s seems like a no-brainer. Little did I know that this would be something very special indeed.
Set in Dublin during the economic crisis of the 1980’s when emigration was an everyday occurrence, Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), gets transferred to a Christian Brothers school in order for the family to try and save money. He has an ambition to become a singer within a band, but hasn’t really taken on the idea. But his chance-meeting with a model named Raphina (Lucy Boynton) has him ask her to take part in his band’s upcoming music video… with a band which he now must pull together from nowhere. And so their adventure begins set against the background where dreams and ambitions tend to be crushed by the reality of the times.
There are a good few common themes running through here – from love and ambition, to taking on “the man” and family issues. But it is that backdrop of the era and times which makes everything all the more interesting. Things are shit for everyone, regardless of who you are or what you want to do, so trying to make a band is a big risk. But then again, there’s not a whole lot else that allows escapism from the harsh realities, with music being that one exception for Conor. He’s not doing well in school, doesn’t fit in, but the dream keeps him going and motivated.
And speaking of which, let’s jump right into the biggest selling point – the music is fucking amazing. And not just on a “they’re good at pretending to play” viewpoint – no, they are all properly good, with the singing being just outstanding. Each tune has a set of references upon which it was built, but feels both unique and extremely catchy. You can argue that one or two sound a bit modern, but that is a though of mine which appeared before quickly vanishing away. It is all that damm good.
The script is quite solid as well – simple, but never over-stepping the line of absurdity. They’re a group of teenagers dealing with the typical teenager stuff, so at times it can feel awkward in the correct manner, while others are just moments of normal conversations. The acting cast which was picked out work very well with each other, I’m not familiar with any of them sadly, but they have some good acting chops which should certainly land them future roles in bigger productions.
The sense of positivity which runs through the visuals and narrative reminded me a lot of the movie “Pride”, that same sense of determined will in an area and setting which is out to ruin their day. Each little step of progress feels like they really earned it, every new tape recording or song shows they are growing as a band and moving along the road. It is hard not to enjoy this steamroll of momentum. And with each new song getting engraved in your head immediately due to how good it is, all the better.
But the final act went in a direction I was not expecting at all, as everything starts to hit a downward slope which it seems it cannot recover from. I don’t mean in terms of quality or anything like that, I mean that reality finally catches up on them. There are some genuinely sad moments that hit home hard since you know they aren’t exactly Conor’s or the band’s fault – things just unravel in a melancholy manner. The ending attempts to pass it off as a moment of hope and freedom, but when you sit back and think about how the choice effects everyone else… it is almost crushing. Once again this ties into the economic times and actually illustrates it well, it was a conclusion that had way more complexity to it than I was predicting.
The fantastic list of songs and performances are one thing, but it was this final act which really solidified my feelings for this film. There was no golden, synthetic resolution that meant everyone won, in reality time had just passed and most were just as bad off as they were at the beginning. But that was okay, they has grown, it was a coming-of-age tale without the material victory but instead one which was more valuable. That took some real balls to make a choice like that, and it demands praise.
“Sing Street” is clever, very well acted and musically performed, and has a cracking set of songs which are sure to be on many Playlists for a long time to come. The 80’s cliches are delivered in a non-patronising way and instead serve to the story as a whole. I am almost ashamed that I failed to check this out when it was in theatres earlier on in the year, but now that I have seen it I can totally see how it achieved all the praise that came its way.
Thanks for reading!