Sing Street exists in a world where that dream can come true. Some critics have called it "wish fulfillment" and I guess that's true. Sing Street does basically fulfill a childhood fantasy of mine and in a realistic scenario, the events of this film probably would never happen. But I don't think director John Carney wants to live in that world. His world is a world of hope, of dreams, of finding love and finding purpose for your life. And yet, Sing Street doesn't operate in a fantasy world. The film is grounded in its take on bullying, on finding yourself, and on the high school experience in general. The magic is that it doesn't wallow in the pain and sadness, the crippling loneliness and emptiness that comes with that crucial time in life. It takes all of life's dreck and channels it into music, into raw passion, into Conor's ultimate purpose in life.
And ultimately, I was blindsided by Sing Street. It spoke to me in a way that was personal and immediate. It's a wonderful film that deserves to be mentioned alongside the best teen movies and the best musical movies ever made. On every level, this movie is a masterpiece. From the instant classic songs to the visual palette to the acting, it's wonderful. But there's no way to understate the impact that it had on me. Watching this movie was like a shot in the arm. I walked into Sing Street feeling kind of lost, in the middle of some soul-searching. I walked out feeling like I had a better of understanding of life. Maybe that'll sound like hyperbole to some people, but to me, it's a perfect description of my experience.
But after a while, Conor starts to make some friends. He meets Darren (Ben Carolan), a short spitfire who shows him the ropes in the wild environment. Most importantly, Conor meets Raphina (Lucy Boynton). He first sees her standing on the corner of a street near the school, cigarette dangling from her lips. And like that, he's in love. He gets her number by asking her to be a model in his band, which unfortunately doesn't exist. But with the help of Darren, Conor meets Eamon (Mark McKenna), Ngig (Percy Chamburuka), Larry (Conor Hamilton) and Garry (Karl Rice) and together, they form Sing Street. With the help of his loving brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), Conor finds a passion in life and seizes his moment. It's his time take control of the school, win the girl and stick it to the man. And he's gonna drive it like he stole it.
John Carney has been known for making musical dramas before, but I can't say that I'm familiar with either Once or Begin Again. After this, I'm definitely making some plans to check those two movies out. Carney is the reason this movie works. He wrote the honest and emotional screenplay, directed the film and had a huge influence on the movie's musical soundtrack (which will be on repeat for months on my iPhone). Carney does just about everything right with this movie. Everything is filmed with energy and pizzazz, but also a raw power that can't be matched by any other film that I've seen recently. The tunes are catchy and the characters are so well-developed in just about every way, giving the movie a flow that is remarkable.
Even though the two leads are mesmerizing, the supporting cast somehow manages to be just as good. The five supporting band members are hysterical and charming, led by the film's other breakout superstar, Mark McKenna. He has so much talent, charisma and chemistry and he creates one of the most effective dynamics in the whole movie. Also phenomenal is Ian King, who plays the bully-turned-muscle, a character that provides a crucial arc in the development of Sing Street's popularity. They feel like a real band that works together, and that's a major part of the movie's unique charm. But there's one other performance outside of the core that deserves plenty of recognition, and that's Jack Reynor's turn as Brendan. In many ways, he's the movie's secret weapon. You expect a lot of the themes about growing up and falling in love and so on, but there's a surprising touch that I would never have seen coming.
In many ways, this is John Carney's most brilliant move. He takes a premise that could be simple and makes it about something more. Everybody in Sing Street is looking for love and for a place to belong and for friendships, but they're also looking to be something. The characters in this movie don't come from good places. They're orphans. They're from broken homes. They're poor. And yet, they're able to come together to form something pure and beautiful and fun. That's the beauty of Sing Street and I think it's a vital part of why this is such a wonderful film. In its essence, it's a movie about hope. It made me laugh, it brought me to the verge of tears and it made me want to stand up and cheer. It's the best movie of the year so far, and if it gets topped, we're in for a special 2016. I'm fully confident in saying that this is one of the most powerful and amazing film experiences I've ever had. Thank you, John Carney. This is one that I'll treasure forever.
THE FINAL GRADE: A+ (10/10)
Images courtesy of The Weinstein Company