Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 106 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 14+. This musical drama focuses on Irish teenagers who form a band as a way to escape stressful familial situations and unwelcome classmates; there is some bullying, both from fellow students and the school’s administrator, some drinking (including depictions of alcoholic parents), and some smoking of both marijuana and cigarettes. Also some talk about sex, some kissing, a sexual device is briefly seen on screen, some cursing and racial and homophobic slurs, and a character is very lightly implied to be a pedophile. This is all kind of edgy stuff, but the film’s ultimate messages about taking chances and navigating adolescence are good ones.
‘Sing Street’ takes its inspiration from the music and movies of the ‘80s, tapping into nostalgia for the time with its messages about self-expression. It’s a little slick, but it’s a crowd-pleaser.
By Roxana Hadadi
The previous film from writer/director John Carney, “Begin Again,” was originally called “Can A Song Save Your Life?” and Carney keeps that trend going with his latest, “Sing Street.” A coming-of-age tale about an Irish teenager who forms a band with his friends, “Sing Street” is a typical story told to crowd-pleasing satisfaction. Very little of “Sing Street” seems groundbreaking, but it pretty consistently hits its marks.
For parents, there will definitely be some nostalgia here. The movie’s titular band cycles through various ‘80s groups as they try to find their own sound, mimicking musicians like Hall and Oates and The Cure and mocking others like Genesis, and the decade’s outfits are also on full display, with lots of eyeliner and hairspray. Older viewers will get a kick out of this heartfelt affection for the ‘80s, and hopefully teenagers seeing “Sing Street” with their parents will be intrigued to learn more about the pop culture of the time, too.
“Sing Street” is set in Dublin in 1985 and focuses on 15-year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), whose family seems to be on the brink of collapse. Amid a failing economy and a bleak atmosphere, Conor’s family is barely keeping it together.
Older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor, of “Transformers: Age of Instinction”) is living at home after dropping out of college, bitter about his future, spending his time listening to records and smoking pot. Sister Ann (Kelly Thornton) is throwing herself into her studies and ignoring her family, hoping that college will be her escape. And parents Robert (Aiden Gillen, of “The Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials”) and Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy, of “Jupiter Ascending”) are clearly headed toward divorce, both varying degrees of alcoholics who can’t understand how their lives ended up this way.
As a sign of the family’s downturn, Robert decides to pull Conor out of his private, expensive Jesuit school and transfer him to the local Catholic school, Synge Street CBS. The kids are skinhead bullies, the principal is an authoritarian who believes in punishment (and who, it’s suggested, may be a pedophile), and Conor has barely any friends. But when he sees the older Raphina (Lucy Boynton), with her stonewashed jeans, teased hair, and aspirations of being a model, Conor spins a story of being in a band, shooting a music video, and wanting Raphina to appear in it.
There are only a few problems, of course: that Raphina has a boyfriend, that Conor isn’t in a band, and that there certainly is no music video about to shoot. But with Brendan’s help, Conor starts pulling things together: He writes some music, he finds classmates to join his band, and he befriends Raphina, using her skill with hair and makeup to transform his image. “Rock and roll is a risk,” Brendan tells Conor, who Raphina nicknames Cosmo. “You risk being made a fool of.” But with no risk comes no reward.
“Sing Street” tackles a few different things—the relationships Conor builds with Raphina and with Brendan and how each of them shapes him; the stark contrast between the bleakness the parents and adults have accepted and the future focus displayed by the teens—but ultimately its main focus is Conor, Brendan, and Raphina, and the other characters unfortunately aren’t developed at all. In fact, Raphina herself is given very little to do besides be Conor’s love interest and his means of transformation, and that’s disappointing given that she’s the only main female character.
But there are plenty of crowd-pleasing moments in “Sing Street,” and they help smooth over the film’s shortcomings: the band Sing Street performing at an end-of-year school concert in front of those who bullied them; Brendan and Conor gaining an understanding and appreciation for the hardships their mother in particular has endured; and the bond forged between Conor and Raphina and their shared dream of moving to London. With all that earnestness, “Sing Street” is a memorable musical that is highly enjoyable viewing for both adults and teens.
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