The 1980s were something of a golden age for film. “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “The Princess Bride” and “The Breakfast Club” are only a small sliver of cinematic brilliance that came out of the decade. It is difficult to pin down any one reason why the ‘80s films were so successful, but I think it is because of the energy and precision the directors and filmmakers infused into their work. The narratives were airtight, the characters were well-developed and the quality of the films were unparalleled for their time. That same level of craft seems harder to come by in contemporary movies, so when I do come across such a film, the result is something incredibly special. And my goodness, did I find something incredible with “Sing Street.”
Written and directed by John Carney, “Sing Street” is a film set in Dublin, Ireland in 1985, where protagonist Connor Lalor started a band, Sing Street, to impress Raphina, the mysterious girl who hung out every day across the street from Connor’s school. Upon first read, the plot sounds fairly generic, but this film is extremely far from that. The film already lends itself to a realistic and lively tone in Carney’s decision to set his story in the 1980s. One of the many things I love about this film is that nothing about it ever feels forced. Every arc feels organic, and much of that is credited to the actors involved. Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Lucy Boynton are great as the two leads. Even when the subject matter gets heavy, they deal with it the way that a normal teenager would in that situation. Jack Reynor is another highlight in the film as Connor’s burnout older brother Brendan, whose story arc comes together in a very heartwarming way near the film’s close.
The scenes with Connor and his bandmates are also entertaining. Their musical abilities are initially questionable, at best, which makes for some hilarious practice rehearsals, mix tapes and music videos. There is a bit of a John Hughes vibe flowing throughout these dynamics. However, what grows out of this musical mess is amazing. It is enchanting to watch these characters go from amateur to quality musicians. This leads me to the biggest standout element in the film—the music. The original songs are catchy and upbeat, and I would be lying if I said I haven’t had the soundtrack playing on repeat on my Spotify. The on-screen performances are also elaborate, particularly toward the end when the boys play a gig at their school dance. The music is the central chord that connects it all together, mirroring Connor’s character development as his voice starts out off-key, before becoming more confident and powerful. It is a true focal point in the film, and John Carney’s precision and attention to detail throughout all of this only adds to that quality.
The strong narrative also harkens back to the cinematic golden age. Surrounding the dynamic between Connor and Raphina are issues of family, poverty and abuse, all of which flow together naturally—another testament to Carney’s direction. Without giving anything away, the ending scene in particular links back to an important piece of dialogue from one of the characters which caps the film off beautifully.
“Sing Street” is one of the rare films today that really does have the whole package. The tone, characters and narrative coupled with the music and staging make for a remarkable result. It may only be set in the ‘80s, but the way it all comes together makes it feel like it was plucked right out of that decade. For me, it’s undoubtedly the best film of the year so far, and it may be one of my favorite films, period. “Sing Street” is a true gem, proving that our current decade still has some great films to give.