Film Review: “Sing Street” Will Have You Singing

Amy Gottlieb, MA, LMFT

In theaters now is a lovely movie out of Ireland called “Sing Street”. I saw it at the Landmark, but I’m sure it is playing other places as well. If you are someone who occasionally suggests movies to clients, this could be perfect for a kid dealing with bullying, or a kid with parents fighting and headed for divorce, or a kid for whom music is the key to keeping him/her hopeful in life.
The movie is set in Dublin in the 1980s where our protagonist, Conor (played by Ferdia Walsh Peelo – I know, that’s quite a mouthful), is in love with Raphina (played by Lucy Boynton) and the chances of his desire for her remaining unrequited is quite high. But it’s not the boy-pursues-girl that makes this film so delightful – the film beautifully portrays how our young protagonist manages obstacles in his life.

Throughout the course of the film, Conor has to deal with some vicious bullying at school, a rather sadistic headmaster, financial hardship putting the most basic things such as shoes out of reach, and parents who scream at one another round the clock causing duress to their 3 children. The resilience Conor displays throughout the film is admirable and believable. I say “believable” because so often screenplays are written about characters who are able to hurdle seemingly insurmountable odds, and it just doesn’t feel plausible. Instead, those stories feel overly sentimental and the audience often comes away feeling manipulated to believe dreams really do come true, and if you just try hard enough, things will always come out well in the end.

The infectiously upbeat aspect of “Sing Street” is when Conor forms a band to provide a platform for the girl he has a crush on to participate in the band’s music videos. The band mates he rounds up make for a pretty motley crew, but they are all so earnest, you can’t help but fall in love with them. Another realistic detail of the film is that Conor really can’t sing very well, and he is the lead singer in the band that he puts together. This is also refreshing from the typical Disney-fied movie where everyone ultimately has a major but hidden talent and everyone can ultimately succeed.

One of the most wonderful parts of the film is the relationship Conor has with his brother, Brendan (played by Jack Reynor). Brendan is quite a bit older than Conor, and is stuck at home because he doesn’t have the money to move out. The age difference between the two brothers finds them with little in common at the beginning of the film, but due to the older brother’s expertise in rock music, he takes an interest when his young brother tries to launch his band. Brenden takes Conor under his wing and coaches him how to create music that isn’t just redundant by way of following other rock music trends of the times. He teaches Conor how to find his own unique way of expressing himself, and this becomes a metaphor for Conor in his life in general. Reynor’s performance as Brendan is exceptionally strong especially during a very key scene at the end of the film where, if you’re not already in love with his character, you fall for him hard by then.

The narrative in life that music has the ability to transform us from the turmoil in our lives to survive our hardships is not a new one, but I am confident you will enjoy the unique way this theme is presented in “Sing Street”.

Unrelated to my review, I am extremely curious if you folks get a chance to read my column. At the end of my reviews each month, I ask for any comments, questions, or feedback in reaction to what I have written. Thus far, I have heard from no-one (well, except for the wonderful women who put this publication together). Out of curiosity, shoot me an e-mail and just let me know if you read my reviews. This is not a request for you to comment further. I am just very curious if I am merely whistling in the wind. Thanks.