Sing Street tells the story of Conor, a 15 year old kid who escapes the troubles of everyday life through music and finds in it a way to impress Raphina, an older girl who lives across the street from his school. Along the way, he grows from a boy into a man and makes some really good friends. The plot doesn't sound as amazing at first, but in this post I'll list all the little things that make Sing Street one of the best movies of the year and what got it a place in the Golden Globe Awards right next to Marvel's Deadpool as 'Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy'.
Obviously, there will be lots of spoilers ahead.
From the screenplay we know what Louise Kiely was looking for when casting the main characters. Even though Carney's (director and screenwriter) notes were very subjective, Kiely's interpretation of them was not only perfect in choosing actors who did a good job and created what seemed to have been a pretty nice work environment, it also complemented the setting of the story since everyone looked local in a way or another, which enriches the movie a lot and makes it even more believable.
Some notes from the screenplay:
"Conor will be handsome when he grows up". - Ferdia Walsh-Peelo
"Darren has acne, buck teeth, braces and bifocals. His face is a mess." - Ben Carolan
"She (Raphina) has a great look: lots of black. Good makeup. Back-combed hair. Early ‘80s teen-chic. She’s ahead of her time, and anything but ordinary."- Lucy Boynton
After the casting was done and the filming began, director and screenwriter Jon Carney was faced with an issue every director is faced with at least once in a lifetime: Figuring out how to keep a lot of teenagers under control, having fun and delivering good work, which he did do in the end, brilliantly if I must, by instructing and caring for actors from all types of background - from Mark Mckenna, who only ever acted unscripted inside a room, to Jack Reynor and Aidan Gillen, who had already worked in big hollywoodian productions.
Also, he delivered some really cool shots along the way. Every cut had a purpose, and that is something I can't say about more than half the movies that came out in the past two years.
A Story That Is Unafraid
The first time I watched this movie it caught my attention how many times we see kids smoking on screen, or talking about that as if it was natural. I am absolutely sure that this is how things were back in the '80s in Dublin, or else Carney wouldn't have added it to the screenplay, but to see it so clearly portrayed in a movie from 2016 is still a shock because movies nowadays are afraid of showing the everyday life as it is/was, flaws and all.
Sing Street is unafraid because it does not choose what to share and what to keep hidden. It is a PG rated movie with a horny main character, a bunch of smoking kids, a mother that masturbates in her spare time, lots of family drama, spanking, bullying,...
And as if that wasn't enough, Carney was brave enough to add in a joke involving racism, and bare with me, this is the first time in my life I am saying something like this as a compliment. You see, different from other movies when Sing Street portrays racism it does not make fun of the black kid, nor does the black kid make the white one feel bad, the only people who react are the ones in the audience, and they only do so because Darren looks stupid AF in there.
In this scene we're naturally sided with Ngig and we laugh because Darren didn't do anything to make him feel bad, he's just ignorant in a way that most people were back in a day, and to me this was a brave and brilliant addition to the movie that showed exactly how oblivious most people used to be and how far we've come in overcoming our differences. The fact that Carney felt free enough to add this to the story and keep it there in itself is already a sign that we're going even further into learning how to accept each other, live together, and make fun of when we used to be stupid enough not to do so. And besides, it also helps to show what the world was like back there and then.
But in the end, this is a movie about Conor and how he finds a way out through his music, so even though there are other issues being portrayed, the movie does not deviate from the main storyline once, making sure that everything else is either helping set up the environment or pushing the story forward. This is a case of a movie that knows exactly what it is.
Realism All The Way
We've all seen this scene: A guy is about to make a move on this girl he likes, the tension builds up, the timing is perfect. Out of nowhere comes a nice car and she jumps in it, gives the driver a kiss, and off they go while our guy is left alone in the shadow.
Sing Street has a scene exactly like that, but this is not just any movie, so when the boyfriend comes in, the girl, Raphina, does not ignore Conor, she takes her time before getting in the car, puts her seatbelt on and introduces the two of them. Her boyfriend seems like a nice guy, he's very polite. When they're finally ready to go, the car dies while making a bad U turn and they drive off in a regular speed.
The entire movie is filled with similar examples and it is brilliant because it takes clichés and turns them into everyday real life events, which are a completely different thing. To dive so deep in a story that it becomes your own for a couple of hours is the best feeling in the world, and scenes like that are the ones that make this feeling stronger, as well as make all the other ones that much more believable.
All The Little Details
When I said the movie took realism to a whole new level, I meant it: If you go watch it on your Netflix now, you'll find a kid vomiting in the corner of the screen right after the school dance, probably because he had a few drinks even though this wasn't allowed. You'll also see a man trying to steal Conor's bike at St. Catherine's Park; Eamon's Rabbits shitting in his bed; anyway... Let's just say you can amuse yourself for quite a while trying to find all these little weird additions while watching the movie.
Let The Scene Speak
It's weird to say that I enjoyed listening to the silence in some parts of a musical, but I actually did.
There's something very impactful about a scene with no background music, it can make the performances much more emotional when done correctly, which Sing Street did. The whole sequence at the school when Brother Baxter asks Conor to take off his makeup and drags him to the bathroom has no background music and is one of the strongest scenes in the movie. A soft melody only starts afterwards, when Conor's already been lying wet on the floor for a few seconds, just as a hook up to what comes next.
When Conor leaves school to find Raphina waiting for him in the following scene he's already had a while to calm down but he's still feeling bad for what happened, and the soft melody that drags from the previous scene and throughout this one is a reflex of the way he's feeling inside. In any other movie, the music for this sequence would've been joyful, 'wow, she actually went after him this time' type of song, I appreciate the fact that they did it differently in this case.
And since we're talking about music anyways, let's take a moment to mention how brilliant it was that the entire story revolves around the greatest rock bands from the '80s, and that every original song has a different (but very clear) source of inspiration. How great to revisit an era though the most influential type of art there is, the audiovisual.
From Duran Duran in "The Riddle Of The Model" to The Cure in "Beautiful Sea", Sing Street explores all these great hits with such a subtlety that even allowed me to forget I was watching a musical in the first place. I bet these original songs are going in your "must download" list pretty soon!
I could keep going on and on about this movie and it's story but I honestly don't want to overload you guys with information. Just remember to watch it and don't judge it you've done so. Sing Street is available on Netflix and Amazon right now. I gave it an 98/100 when I first reviewed it. This is a movie you don't want to miss out on.
It was a challenge, I'm sure, to make it so that no scene was underdone, no line unbelievable and every performance as good as the one before. No one can ever say that this movie was bad, and it's all due to Carney's great writing and directing skills. I was, as you can see, honestly surprised when I watched this for the first time and got myself enjoying it as much as I did. I'm sure the same will happen to you.
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