Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Now on Netflix: Sing Street (2016)

Sing Street - Written and Directed by John Carney; Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor.

By Kenny Howell

John Carney has reinvented the movie musical over the past few years.

What started with the hit Once, has now led to a solid follow up in Begin Again, and this terrific film about a young boy growing up in strict Dublin while trying to become a rock star.

When we start the movie, Conor finds out that his parents are running out of money, and he is going to have to leave his private school to go to a rough public school run by Catholic priests. He quickly learns that the school is not going to work out when the head priest informs him that he has to wear black shoes everyday and when he doesn't comply (partly because of his parents' money situation, but also because he doesn't want to), the priest makes him go without shoes all day at school until he learns his lesson.

Conor sees his natural escape into music, and he gathers up some of the boys in school to start a band. This being the early 1980s, the band is very Duran Duran-ish, but the kids show a natural talent, and start putting together great songs.

Part of it is Conor's muse Rafina, a local girl that lives in all girls home, and dreams of running away to London to become a model. She joins in on the boys' music videos, and inspires Conor to write songs about the troubles that she is going through, and how it deepens his love for her.

Also pushing Conor forward is his brother Brendan who feels like he missed his opportunity to take a chance on a music career, and wants his little brother to not make the same mistake.

All of Carney's films are about music and the process of making it. That is what has made his three recent films unique and work so well is he is so good at analyzing the creative process of music within the deeper contexts of love, friendship and family. The weakest of the three films Begin Again, which was still pretty good, had the best scene that showed that when Mark Ruffalo's music producer sees a singer-songwriter played by Keira Knightley performing her song with just a guitar, and he imagines all the instruments around her pitching in on the song and building it piece by piece.

In Sing Street, Carney really explores the evolution of the band, also called Sing Street. Being young, they grow and become a tighter group until they are finally rocking out the school concert. The songs, written by Gary Clark about what is going on in the film, really brings that home.

You pretty much know where Sing Street is headed, but Carney hits those notes so well, it is always earnest, touching, funny, tragic and joyful. Carrying that roller coaster is lead Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor. You see him grow from a sweet, sort of awkward young man, into a confident lead singer. The journey feels like something we have gone on before, but in Carney and the talented cast's hands, it is always genuine and just full of joy.

Sing Street is now streaming on Netflix.

Rating: ****

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