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The charismatic young cast, led by newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (fourth from left), does a great job of winning over the audience with their fresh-faced innocence and conviction.

A nostalgic musical for retro-pop fans

Jul 29, 2016 5:50 AM

IT'S EASY to accuse Irish director John Carny of making the same film time and again: His favourite boy-meets-girl musical formula was first used in the Dublin-set Once (2007) before he moved it Stateside to New York City in Begin Again (2013).

It now comes full circle with Sing Street, a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age rom-com which takes place in the filmmaker's native home country during the eighties.

But while the plots of Carney's shoe-string budget films might sound similar, each possesses its own charms and the magic lies in their respective soundtracks.

Like the works of Cameron Crowe (Singles, 1992; Almost Famous 2000) and Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, 1993; School of Rock, 2003), music plays a big part in shaping Carny's movies; and with nostalgic tracks by Duran Duran, A-Ha, Spandau Ballet and more popping up throughout the film, Sing Street is bound to strike a chord with any eighties pop fan. (The synthesizer-drenched originals penned by veteran songwriter Gary Clark aren't half-bad either and evokes the cheesy New Wave tunes of that era.)

While the film's sugary sweet puppy love story does get a little cloying, the charismatic young cast, led by newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, does a great job of distracting the audience from that and winning them over with their fresh-faced innocence and conviction instead.

Walsh-Peelo plays Conor, a 14-year-old who is sent to Synge Street public school in inner-city Dublin after his soon-to-be-divorced parents run out of money to afford a proper education for their son.

The constant bullying and mean teachers make life hell for him but the appearance of of a mysterious beauty Raphina (Lucy Boynton) keeps him from skipping classes.

In order to get to know her, Conor lies about being in a band and invites her to make a music video. When Raphina agrees, he puts together a ragtag group which starts off playing Duran Duran covers (badly) before eventually transforming themselves into a pint-sized version of The Commitments.

Credit goes to Conor's elder brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), who steps in to help his younger sibling find his songwriting voice. Though the character is only a supporting one, Brendan turns out to be the heart and soul of the film; and it's no wonder Carny dedicates it "to all brothers" in the closing credits.

An out-and-out crowd pleaser, Sing Street will go down a treat for music lovers but even if you are not one, it will somehow find a way to worm itself into your heart.

Rating: B+