Review: Sing Street (Sundance)
PLOT: A young man (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) growing up in 1985 Dublin seeks solace from his complicated life in pop music.
REVEW: I’ve seen some great movies at the Sundance Film Festival over my seven years as a regular. WHIPLASH, BOYHOOD, JAMES WHITE, THE RAID 2 - all of these were amazing and rank among the most memorable theatrical experiences of my life. Now, add SING STREET to that list. The latest from director John Carney (ONCE, BEGIN AGAIN), SING STREET is easily the best movie I’ve seen at the festival this year - heck - maybe even any year. An energetic, big-hearted ode to the glory of eighties music, SING STREET is a cinematic gift from Carney, who once again proves himself as the best director of movies about music since Richard Lester (A HARD DAY’S NIGHT).
Neither as ultra-indie as the beautiful ONCE or as slick as the underrated BEGIN AGAIN, SING STREET is like a perfected hybrid of both. It has the heart and excitement of ONCE but also the polish of BEGIN AGAIN, making this a good bet to be a crossover sleeper if handled the right way by distributor The Weinstein Company.
Newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is our dynamic lead, a fifteen-year-old Dubliner forced to give up his private school education for school with the Catholic Church, which is given in a brutal, run-down institution called Syng Street. With his home life a shambles thanks to his parents (Aiden Gillen & Maria Doyle Kennedy) constant fighting, Walsh-Peelo’s Cosmo finds an unlikely refuge in music. Initially just a project to impress a gorgeous local girl (Lucy Boynton), after a bit of tutoring from his hash-smoking, Duran Duran-loving brother (Jack Reynor) Cosmo and his band-mates find that they have a natural talent for creating great songs.
The music is where Carney really excels, having co-written many of the tunes, all of which seem like they actually could have been eighties pop hits, with memorable hooks and spot-on lyrics. The songs are meant to be bubble-gum, but wow are they memorable. The way Carney directs the band assembling all the pieces of the song is similar to what he did in BEGIN AGAIN, only more impressive. There’s a show-stopping sequence midway through where the band - shooting a music video - fantasize that they're in the middle of a huge production number. It’s a virtuoso sequence as Cosmo imagines it as a huge pop video populated by characters from his life. The combination of music and visuals is so potent here that TWC should just put it online to drum up interest, as there’s no way anyone seeing this would not want to see the film immediately.
Another thing that works in Carney’s favor is that he’s one of the few filmmakers out there whose movies are utterly free of cynicism. As the movie evolves from grit to pure fantasy, the transition is utterly successful, and by the time the credits roll most viewers will be firmly under his spell. It’s just a beautifully crafted and imagined film with wonderful music, a lovely story and terrific performances from stars Walsh-Peelo, Boynton and especially Jack Reynor, who shows exactly why Hollywood’s been so hot on him and how badly wasted he was in the last TRANSFORMERS. He’s a leading man in the making.
If movies made money based on merit, SING STREET would out-gross THE FORCE AWAKENS. It’s a spectacular film and god willing, it’ll find the broad audience it so richly deserves. To me, this felt an awful lot like a new classic. I hope audiences agree with me.