This is a difficult film to pitch (pun intended). It’s not a musical, but it does have a lot of songs, and it’s not a comedy, but there are a lot of jokes. In fact I knew so little going into this film that I mistakenly thought it was a jukebox musical. The trailer promises the music of numerous 80’s bands, and that’s a bit of a lie. Those songs are played in the background, but the actual music we hear is written by John Carney, who also writes and directs. I sometimes get a little bit cynical when one name appears in credits a lot of times, as it screams vanity project, but hopefully in this case it’s closer to passion project.
Set in 1980’s Dublin, Sing Street is the story of Cosmo (that’s his stage name), a teenage boy with a difficult family life. After he’s transferred to a rough local school, he finds that he’s the victim of bullies, in the form of both other students and teachers. After meeting a mysterious girl who lives nearby, he starts a band in order to impress her, and it turns out he’s actually quite good at this music thing.
I’ll address what I was concerned about first – writer / director / songwriter John Carney, and I’m pleased to say that he did a great job across the board. The script is well written with very little excess material, the direction is sharp, providing both comedy and some serious touching moments, and the songs are… alright. What he does very well is that the whole film feels realistic. The band never quite play perfectly, and the way the story progresses makes sense.
My only small issue with this film is that when it comes time to truly pull on the heart-strings (pun intended) it falls a little short. For a film that has the added bonus of being able to use emotional music as part of the story, it really doesn’t utilise the tools it had access to. I would also say that sometimes the film focuses a little bit too much on the love story, which isn’t really the true message of the film.