Photo taken from TuneFind
In the ninth grade, my two best friends and I started a band, had a solid seven or eight practices, recorded a cover of Blink 182’s “I Miss You”, but then I quit due to a commitment to a fashion internship. To put it blatantly, we were set up to fail. I was embarrassingly bad at my role in the group (guitar) and had way more fun writing songs in bedrooms after school, which led to an imbalance in who was really pulling their weight in the trio. I mean we could barely get past naming the band without a huge blowout of a fight. Though I would love to look back on what could have been with my freshman emo band, I know it just wasn’t meant to be.
Sing Street is the classic trope of coming-of-age. With themes of first love, divorce, desire to be noticed, bullying, and unity, the 2016 Irish film directed by John Carney, completely fits the bill to follow with classics such as Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Breakfast Club. Yet, as I sat in my best friend’s basement on a Saturday night, there was definitely a sense of difference and beauty that Sing Street offered.
Set in 1980s Dublin, 15-year-old Conor gathers a group of his misfit classmates to form a band to impress Raphina, a jaded 16-year-old model (who, of course, has a tragic backstory and a questionable set of decisions). A single music video titled, “The Riddle of The Model”, complete with comically strewn together costumes and cavalier camerawork, catapults the group into a rage of success and various scenarios leading Raphina and Conor to grow closer. As the story progresses, not only does the band improve with the guidance of Conor’s college dropout brother, Brendan, but Conor’s family situation deteriorates more and more.
One of the aspects I most appreciated about Sing Street was how much Carney veered away from the overplayed plot of a high school garage band coping with unity and their artistic views. Instead, the film delves into Conor’s home life, struggling on the verge of bankruptcy and the divorce of his parents, along with his own issues of self confidence. The band is merely a plot device in a much bigger narrative. As Conor walks into his high school showing an uncanny resemblance to Ziggy Stardust, he displays a giant gap between his current character and the character we were introduced to at the beginning. Through the songwriting sessions he shares with bandmate, Eamon, he reveals his reactions to the events shown previously, along with the complexity of his feelings for Raphina as he gets to know her better. This pattern of Conor’s hidden feelings being expressed through music continues on throughout the story, such as in a fantasy he has in the midst of a 1950s prom themed video shoot, as he imagines his estranged parents dancing together, Raphina showing up for him, and his bully beaten up by his brother, all in a very surreal fashion.
Featuring a variety of comic and heart wrenching scenes, such as Conor’s off key version of “Take On Me”, which Raphina pressures him to sing for her, along with Conor’s brother admitting his true disdain for how his life turned out. The film is topped off with an incredible soundtrack filled with upbeat (and horribly catchy) original songs such as, “Drive It Like You Stole It” and “Up”, along with hits from The Cure and Duran Duran. Sing Street is an incredible depiction of growing up and teenage culture, and all around, is a visual masterpiece.