Sing Street (John Carney, 2016)

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Sing Street, directed by John Carney (2016).

Score: heartwarming.

Dublin, 1985. Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is the youngest of three siblings. The dramatic economical situation of his parents (Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) forces them to pull him out of the Jesuit school he was attending and send him to Catholic Synge Street instead. One day he meets a mysterious girl called Raphina (Lucy Boynton) who wants to be a model and would be interested in appearing in a band video. The only thing Conor needs to do now is form that band.

This movie is pure love for music for the sake of music. Conor and Eamon (Mark McKenna) are natural-born musicians. They live music and breathe music; they aren’t scared of failing, they just keep making music, even if their means and abilities are scarce. Music also vertebrates Conor’s relationship with his elder brother Brendan (Jack Reynor): they spend precious time together listening to records and watching musical programmes on TV. Brendan enjoys becoming a mentor in music for his little brother and watching Conor get excited about the new sounds that he had already discovered.

Music is a relief and a companion to Conor’s life: it helps him grow up and cope with harassment from the school bully, the abusive priest that runs his school and his parents’ failed marriage in a time and place where divorce is illegal and they can’t even afford to get separated. And of course, music is essential to his relationship with Raphina. Music is a means for Conor to sort out his feelings, get to know himself and become and adult, one step at a time.

In a society where everyone wants to be rich and famous at any cost, making art for oneself is too often seen as a waste of time. That’s why I love that Sing Street doesn’t address once the matter of the band going professional (though they do discuss leaving for London to seek their fortune). They make music because they love music, no strings attached.

Sing street is also exhilaratingly optimistic: in a dire social and economical situation, the characters make a place for themselves out of sheer force of will. Even though they aspire to see the world and live life to the fullest, they still look at the place where they were born and raised and recognise it as a shaper of who they are, full of fond memories.

All in all, Sing street is a sensitive and beautiful movie about what music can do for us and I definitely recommend it.

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