Thursday, May 26, 2016

Film: "Sing Street"

For me, the 80’s WAS my coming-of-age decade. My spirit, my soul, my body, my mind, my art, my craft, my career, my thought, my life….ALL came alive [some died; some died and then became alive again!] during that frantic, frenetic, fun-loving, free-love time. High school was done; innocence lost. College held promises and promiscuities and experimentation and heartbreak and check-ins with reality. But the one glorious aspect of that splendidly decadent, defining, disastrously delicious decade: THE MUSIC….and in particular, what was then referred to as the Second British Invasion.

Born out of the end of disco and as a fusion of pop/rock and soul, New Wave music was ushered in on radio waves by British groups like Duran Duran, Culture Club, the Cure,

Depeche Mode, Wham!, the Thompson Twins, the Police, Bananarama, the Eurythmics,
U2, Dexy’s Midnight Runners, the Human League, the Smiths, New Order, the Pet Shop Boys, Tears for Fears, Bronski Beat, Blancmange, ABC, the Art of Noise, Spandau Ballet, Big Country, Flock of Seagulls, the Blow Monkeys, the Fixx, Bow Wow Wow, Yaz, Adam and the Ants, Madness, Naked Eyes, Wang Chung, Go West, Cee Farrow as well as singers like Rick Astley, Lisa Stansfield, Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Sheena Easton, Kylie Minogue, Kate Bush, Joan Armatrading, and the list goes on and on. In a nutshell, their music helped define a generation and was part of the soundtrack to my life.


“Sing Street”, the newest movie from director John Carney, is an homage to that wondrous and defining decade. 

It’s Dublin in 1985. Amidst an economic recession, Conor’s family – parents (who are headed straight for divorce court), an older, gadabout brother Brendan and an older collegiate sister Ann- must give up a high brown life which means Conor must transfer to a private, Catholic, all boys high school to finish his secondary education. And of course, fitting in comes with its standard fun-poking, up-beating, "isolationistic" behavior exhibited toward “the new kid” on the block.

Director John Carney

So, what better way to escape this stark and moreso bitter reality than by recruiting members to form a band!
And recruit, Conor does!
And write some nifty songs, Conor does!
And shoot some music videos, Conor and crew do
[Reminder: MTV ruled the television airwaves in the mid-80’s]!
And begins to wear eyeliner to copy Duran Duran, do they!
And fall in love with a girl, Conor does!
And runs away to find destiny, Conor does!

And….gosh….what a joyful journey and what a joyful movie!

Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) and Eamon (Mark McKenna) write music together and surprisingly, it's toe-tappingly, finger-snappingly, head-boppingly really good! 
The entire cast is rather well put together, starting with Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, the young 16 year old who plays the lead Conor. Now HE looks like could have been in ANY of those 80's bands way back when and, moreover, he CAN ACTUALLY play music and sing!

Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor

 But it's his demeanor as Conor that is quite affecting; he can be tough when he wants to be, scared, eager, sincere, shy, all the mixed feelings of becoming a teen. Conor also has courage and hutzpah and Walsh-Peelo does an excellent job of conveying those deep-seated emotions too. 

"Sing Street" is the name of the band this quirky but lovable bunch of teen misfits creates. Their outfits for this video?...whatever Cosmo can find and whatever everyone can fit!  
But the two relationships highlighted in this film belong to Conor and Raphina, the young wanna-be model (played luminously by Lucy Boynton)  and Conor and his elder brother Brendan (a wonderful, supporting role and performance by Jack Reynor). 

Lucy Boynton as Raphina
who becomes Conor's muse.
With Raphina, Conor begins to find focus and (somewhat) "meaning" in doing what he's doing - making music and the subsequent music videos. She really becomes his muse, in a way, inspiring him to write song after song from the times they sneak away to share. He wants to be her savior, her protector, her lover and the ending, which I will not divulge, is quite fitting. 

But it's with his brother Brendan - an out-of-work, former guitarist - that Conor becomes confident in his pursuit of music. The care and meaning in which Brendan schools Conor in the fine art of music [I guess back in the 1980's, I would have deemed 'playing music on my turntable' as one method of 'learning' music!] it's created, how it's shaped, what it means and how it is played. The key moment in their relationship is when Brendan unleashes an ocean of regret, jealousy and hope in a cathartic tirade that both terrifies and empower Conor. Jack Reynor's performance of a brother living vicariously through the actions of his younger sibling is quite poignant, especially given the last few moments in the film.  

Jack Reynor as Brendan, Conor's big brother, 
mentor and ultimately, his wings. 

I would call "Sing Street" the undiscovered gem (as of yet) in film for 2016. Yes, it's a slight throwback to a period that for someone like me, wasn't too long ago but meant a whole heck of a great deal.