“Rock and roll is a risk. You risk being ridiculed.” This is a quote from our lead singer’s older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), a washed up has been of a man attempting to pass on his knowledge of music onto an aspiring and dream-filled younger brother. It is also one of the many chambers of the heart behind this movies’ many themes, risking your image for the opportunity of expressing your creative voice.
It’s sensical that a writer/director like John Carney, the man behind the sensational Irish musical “Once,” was the brainchild behind this film’s production. It maintains that same warmth and emotionally provocative tone of his fellow musical film, but it introduces a coming of age tales that satisfies and appeases. The film goes out of its way to provide that reward for the audience, providing expectational and delightful plot developments. For some movies, that would be a flaw or negative critique of its lack of creativity, but if this film decided to go the other way, it wouldn't have worked. There’s a tone, a feeling, and an essence to this movie that has to be maintained for this film to work.
The film takes place in mid nineteen eighties Ireland that is suffering from debt and opens with a cut of the tv displaying news footage of Dublin natives sailing away to England. It follows Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a charismatic fifteen-year-old who is forced to move to a Christian brothers school to cut down on the family budget. There’s more melancholy to be found with that of a father and mother who have lost that sexual fire they once had. As two men and women who married to have more sex, seeing as Ireland was becoming an evangelical statehood nation that outlawed divorce, they were culpable for raising children in a household that is built upon a doomed relationship.
He’s a kid that is trying to escape this negative environment, and he accomplishes that through a multitude of fashions. His older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), helps him in this journey, describing how he was there for the first six years of the doomed marriage that his parents openly agreed to, detailing how he macheted a path for Connor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). He also becomes a music teacher, giving him knowledge, influence, and a well-rounded musical pallet.
Not only helping him past the emotional struggles but the musical hurdles as well. He provides him with operatic teachings from bands such as Duran Duran, The Jam, Hall & Oates, and M. Sermons him with the lessons of philosophical quandaries that only artists would find as believable, like that of the feeling of “happy-sad,” accepting the sadness of your life to begin formulating a sense of happiness and recognition. They watch music videos together, bickering back and forth with their sister, someone who seems to have given up on her “vocation” as Brendan (Jack Reynor) exclaims.
This story isn’t a family-centered entirely though, “Sing Street” embraces it's eighties background and makes Conor’s (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) evolvement as an artist come to light because of a girl. It’s always about a girl, but she has a boyfriend, one who listens to Phil Collins, a man who his brother depicts as anything but a problem, stating “No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins.”
The girl, who works as a model, becomes Conor’s (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) influence to start a band. He and his new friend Darren (Ben Carolan), go around town meeting a group of fellow musically inspired youth who all happen to go to the same school. Dealing with the same coerce from the abuseful priests and the school's bully, Barry (Ian Kenny), whose story becomes as upliftingly emotional as anything else to be found in Carney's invigorating tale.
Eamon (Mark McKenna) becomes one of Connor’s (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) closest bonds, growing to be a go-to friend to help him in bouncing off creative ideas and writing some of their best work. Some of the film’s best scenes occur in those moments, as the dialogue written by Carney maintains a natural rigorousness that matches the tone and authenticity of the kids involved in this story as if he once was a young boy from Dublin. (He was, duh)
The environment surrounding these kids contains some vitreal words that are disguised by the enveloping essence of Carney’s direction, racial slurs and homophobia are apart of that world, as it goes for a country being overtaken by theological authority. It’s an added dose of realism that can snap you out of this dream of a movie, but it's there to maintain that legitimacy that makes the moments of fun and the daydream like crux of the story carry further and farther than a delightfully watchable coming of age tale.
Carney creates something much more than just that, providing a numerous amount of weighty themes that can become silenced by the endless amount of toe-tapping music. If the music created by Becky Bentham and many others finds no recognition at the Academy Awards, I will find myself on a diverging path from the most respected award show for movie lovers.
Carney is not solely responsible for this invention of a film as you can see, as the fantastic music that is produced for this movie cannot go unmentioned, neither can the actors and actresses. Featuring familiar faces like Aidan Gillen (“Game of Thrones”), Maria Doyle Kennedy (“Downton Abbey”), and Jack Reynor (“Transformers: Age of Extinction”) throughout the film, as well as fresh faces like Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Ian Kenny, Mark McKenna, and Ben Carolan.
Each of them is on their A-game in this one, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo and Jack Reynor’s chemistry steals the show entirely for me though, providing this brotherly relationship with an amount of emotional heft that becomes deeper when Reynor’s character unleashes his selfish rage for wasting his life thus far. Seeing his brother grow to become such a success is both inspiring and remindful of his past failures.
Carney ends the film with a title card reading “For Brothers Everywhere.” It dawns on you at that point of how much this film was about two brothers helping each other through a dark time in their respective lives. The final sequences is a race against the tidal waves of the Irish Sea with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine singing his newest single “Go Now.” The lyrics of the song’s chorus read “We're never gonna go if we don't go now. You're never gonna know if you don't find out. You're never going back, never turning around. You're never gonna go if you don't go now.”
The other chamber of the heart of this film resides in those lyrics, the song may be a newer entree for a movie grounded in the 1980’s, but it echoes the essence of risking it all because you won’t know what lies in front of you if you don’t sacrifice your footing. If you're chasing a dream, you have to go for it. It’s a cliche snippet that feels entirely fresh, possibly the greatest achievement made by John Carney. Taking something so familiar and using it to create something new, much like Connor’s (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) songwriting, Carney’s screenwriting is influenced by the past, some it probably being his own. I guess Carney hasn’t let go of his childhood just yet, hold on to it my friend, hold on tight.