When he is forced to go to a public Christian Brothers’ school due to a change in his family’s finances, “Cosmo” (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is thrown into chaos. Bullied, both by a schoolmate and a dictatorial priest, Cosmo’s life seems pretty hellish for him. However there is one bright spark, a young model named Raphina ( Lucy Boynton) that he meets near his school. Inspired by the New Wave of music on the TV, he does what many young men have done to attract a girl since the invention of Rock ‘n Roll – he forms a band. He already has an idea for the video-clip, he just needs to find other musicians, then learn to play.
There is something eminently charming about this almost fantasy world of 80s Rock and Roll that Carney creates. It may not have as believable a representation of the period as Linklater’s recent Everybody Wants Some, instead going for a more costume feel for wardrobe and setting. Yet Sing Street is certainly a creature of the 80s, referencing it in song, script and visuals. It is a film filled with nods to the era, each performance from the band capturing a myriad of icons, demonstrating a love and exuberance for the period.
A darker heart also beats here, as it also shows an Ireland experiencing economic doldrums. Underneath there is a world of abuse, divorce, drugs, bullying and poverty. It never overwhelms the optimistic feel of the film, but it is always there, a keen motivating factor for Cosmo’s actions. This may be a light “feel good” film, but that certainly lends a sense of depth to it.
Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is great as Cosmo, undergoing numerous fashion crises through the course of the film (each representative of an iconic 80s look), and wearing each new look with confidence. He strikes the right balance between the comedic and the dramatic, making us empathise with his plight. Lucy Boynton is stunning as Raphina, bringing both verve and fragile beauty. However the film is stolen by Jack Reynor as the older brother. A young burn out, with thwarted ambitions, he acts as Cosmo’s mentor, part Rock guru and part Yoda.
By the parlance of Sing Street, this is certainly a “happy sad” film. Light, enjoyable and at times even campy, but with a melancholic heart and a genuine sense of loss and survival.