So, there’s this girl. You find her captivating. She tells you she’s a model, so you tell her that you are in a band and would love to have her in your music video. Of course, you don’t actually have a band, nor do you play any instruments. This is not a problem for you, however. You put up a flyer, form a band, and ask the captivating lass to be in your first music video… which is incidentally for a song about the young lady called “The Riddle of the Model”.
This is the set up for one of 2016’s best films, Irish coming-of-age musical melodrama, Sing Street. Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, the son of a professional classical singer, makes his acting debut as Conor “Cosmo” Lalor, our ballsy protagonist and leader of the band. Influenced by the early alternative and new wave bands of the early 80s, the band of outcasts from Synge Street prep school calls themselves Sing Street. Sing Street is self-described as a “futurist” band, focusing on new music rather than the music of their parents’ generation. With songs that emulate the style and feel of Duran Duran, the Cure, and Hall and Oates, the band doesn’t stick to one single sound, instead deciding to wear their numerous influences on their sleeves by emulating their favorite artists of the time.
The band may have begun as a ploy to attract a girl, but it doesn’t take long before they become a tight unit with some strong music chops. Cosmo experiments with different looks and it causes some conflict with Synge Street School’s headmaster, an uptight priest who ultimately takes to bullying Cosmo. This isn’t Cosmo’s first bullying experience at Synge, as he was actually bullied early on by one of his classmates. At the climax of the story, Cosmo defeats both of his bullies, in two distinctly different ways. Sing Street becomes Cosmo’s way to battle the demons in his family life, work through his emerging feelings for the object of his affection, and, ultimately, grow up into a young man with the world as his oyster.
The story and script are extremely strong. The performances are all stellar (an ensemble of strong Irish actors with varying levels of notoriety, Aidan Gillen of HBO’s The Wire being the most well-known) and the direction is great (from John Carney, who has earned a reputation as a strong indie director in his native Irish film culture). There is very little about this film that isn’t top notch. One of the things that elevates this picture from a solid film to an exceptional one is the soundtrack. Woven throughout the film are the young band’s original tunes, all well-written and extremely catchy. Their inspiration is highlighted throughout as well, with songs from the Cure, Duran Duran, and Hall and Oates, as mentioned earlier. Fill out the soundtrack with a few more great rock tunes from the era and it’s hard not to fall in love with the music in this film (when a film features a lesser known Motorhead track less than 5 minutes into the runtime, it’s fair to assume the film is sure to be something special).
Writer/director John Carney surely has something to be proud of here, a film that is undeniably one of the stronger entries of the year and a unique piece of art that will stand the test of time as a great example of how to turn a smalltime budget into bigtime entertainment. If you take nothing else away from the film, always remember, “No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins.”