Entertainment·MOVIE REVIEW

Sing Street, teen-centred 80s tale, could be your next favourite musical, says CBC's Eli Glasner

The heartfelt new musical Sing Street captures the happy/sad feelings of adolescence and features an 80s-set soundscape you won't want to shake, says CBC's Eli Glasner.

Director of Once, Begin Again gets personal with 1980s Dublin-set musical

Sing Street, directed by John Carney, revolves around a misfit group that forms a band in 1980s Dublin. (Elevation Pictures)

Sing Street just might be your next favourite musical.

Director John Carney previously proved his melodic movie-making prowess with Once and Begin Again, both of which used music to great effect, with characters who channel their angst into art. 

Sing Street shifts the focus to Dublin during the 1980s — a time that Carney remembers well. Inspired by his own experiences, the film is set at a time when many dreamt of escaping economic blight by boarding a ferry to London. 

The star of the '80s-set coming-of-age film tells CBC's Eli Glasner about diving into Duran Duran, The Talking Heads and other 80s groups to build his character Cosmos. 2:28

The story centres around Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a 15-year-old who uses music to tune out his parents' nightly arguments. With their divorce looming, he is sent to a cheaper Catholic school where he's a target for bullies and a dictatorial headmaster.

But none of that matters after Conor spies Raphina, a blow-dried, bangle-clad vision of beauty. To impress her, he forms a band with other like-minded misfits. Propelled by the power of 1980s pop, eye shadow and copious amounts of hair gel, Conor (who renames himself Cosmo) begins to find his own voice. 

Like a Mini-Pops version of The Commitments, Sing Street works as well as it does thanks to a great ensemble. 

Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, left, and Mark Mckenna star as aspiring teen musicians in Sing Street. (Elevation Pictures)

There's Mark McKenna as Eamon, the guitarist with a pitch-perfect deadpan. Lucy Boynton plays Raphina, the wannabe model who hides behind carefully applied layers of make-up. American Jack Reynor channels his inner Chris Pratt to play Brendan, Conor's stoner brother who super-charges the young musician with late-night listening sessions.  

The band becomes proficient surprisingly fast, but you'll be too busy bopping your head to quibble. Like any great musical, this works because the synth-driven songs move the story forward. In fact, Carney collaborated with Scottish musician Gary Clark to craft the pop tracks first, before building the screenplay around them. 

A boy falling for a girl who's out of his league is nothing new, but it's the open-hearted conviction of Carney and Walsh-Peelo's approach to the material that makes this movie sing.

With original songs inspired by 80s artists — from decedent Duran Duran to the angular Talking Heads — Sing Street captures the happy/sad state of adolescence. It's a cinematic ear-worm you won't want to shake. 

RATING: 4 out of 5 stars

Lucy Boynton (from left), Jack Reynor, Mark McKenna, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and John Carney attend the premiere of Sing Street in New York earlier this month. (Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

About the Author

Eli Glasner

Entertainment reporter and film critic

Eli Glasner is a national entertainment reporter and film critic for CBC News. Each Friday he reviews films on CBC News Network as well as appearing on CBC radio programs coast to coast. Covering culture has taken him from the northern tip of Moosonee, Ont. to the Oscars red carpet.


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