June 7, 2016 by David Dehlendorf
Review of Sing Street by San Juan Island’s Molly Hogan.
Recently, I was in Bellingham with some time on my hands, so I checked to see what was playing at the Pickford. My choice that day was Sing Street, a new film from director John Carney, the Irish director of Once (2007) and Begin Again (2013). I was a big fan of Once; in fact, I think I can honestly say it is in my top 10 favorite movies so far. Begin Again was his next film, made with a bigger budget and names we all recognize. It was good enough, but it wasn’t Once.
Sing Street is more like Once, set in Dublin, 1985. The cast is mostly unknown; though I’m sure in Ireland they are recognized. The lead character, Conor, is played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, a 16 year old actor/singer from County Wicklow. Conor, 15, is the youngest of 3, all living at home with parents who are well on their way to divorcing. Family finances cause Conor to be removed from his private school and sent to a public school, on Synge Street. There he is tormented by a skin-head bully and an abusive principal.
One day, Conor spots a lovely young woman sitting on the stoop across the street from the school. His friend dares him to go talk to her. Conor is clearly smitten as he approaches her to ask why she isn’t in school. “I’m a model”, she says. Her name is Raphina and even though she is just 16, she seems more sophisticated and worldlier than Conor. He asks if she wants to be in a video that his band is making. Impressed that he is in a band, she agrees to be in the video.
The only problem with that is he really isn’t in a band. This is where the fun starts. He recruits friends with musical abilities and soon they are writing and rehearsing songs, making videos, changing their looks with new hairdos and odd clothing. His older brother, the stoner with a massive vinyl collection, becomes his music guru.
This journey through adolescence is so much fun to watch. I have a feeling that it may be semi-autobiographical for writer/director John Carney, who dedicated the film “For Brothers Everywhere”. I hope some of you will get a chance to appreciate this lovely film as much as I did.