|movie review | October/November 2016
"Sing Street" brings the 80s style back to the forefront
by Anita Casey-Reed
I stood in the first floor girls' bathroom, eyes covered, holding my breath as two other sophomores valiantly attempted to tease and spray my bangs into appropriate shape. Alas, no amount of Aqua-Net could render me as stylish as the people we saw on MTV.
That memory crossed my mind as I watched "Sing Street", the 2016 movie about a 1980s teenager who discovers his own talent and style after starting a band with several of his misfit classmates. Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, in a fantastic cinematic debut) is looking to escape his dreary Dublin life -- parents arguing over money woes, a new school where bullies pummel students relentlessly -- when he rashly asks a beguiling girl (Lucy Boynton) for her phone number, explaining that he needs a model to appear in his band's music video. When she says yes, Conor realizes he has to come up with a band, and a song, in short order.
Writer/director John Carney has a knack for using details of a time and place in a way that connects to the universality of the experience. I may never have watched "Top of the Pops", but I waited all week for "American Bandstand" to watch the performers and see the latest fashions on the dancers in the crowd. Like Conor, my friends and I took the popular culture around us and used it as we attempted to figure out who we were and who we wanted to become.
Carney also excels at showing how the infectious joy of creating something can transform lives. As the band moves from clumsily covering Duran Duran to writing their own music, they take their experiences and make music that reflects what is happening around them. Ralphina becomes not just "the girl", but an individual who has her own ideas about the storylines of their videos and her own dreams of pursuing a career in London. Conor's brother Brenden (a charismatic Jack Reynor), taking his role as older brother and musical guide seriously, pulls himself out of his post-dropout inertia and rekindles his own creative ambitions.
I have some thoughts on the ending, but I'd prefer to talk it over with people after seeing the movie again. Fortunately, I'll be able to do exactly that on October 27, when "Sing Street" is screened as part of the October Cinema 100 series (see below). The movie is rated PG-13 for a few thematic elements, and some particularly colorful taunts from the school bully. However, the positivity and sheer exuberance of "Sing Street" make it a great movie to see alone or with your older kids, especially with an audience and a big tub of popcorn.
Anita Casey-Reed is a member of the Cinema 100 Film Society and a volunteer for the Dakota Digital Film Festival. She lives in Bismarck with her husband and two children.