It is highly likely that if John Hughes were alive today, he would approve of John Carney’s “Sing Street,” which expands to more theaters on April 29. Following the success of “Once” and “Begin Again,” Carney’s third feature film channels the man who brought us “The Breakfast Club,” “Sixteen Candles,” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” By doing so, Carney turns “Sing Street” into an infectiously delightful ode to the 80s and everything that came out of it.
Taking a chapter from his own life, Carney sets “Sing Street” in 1985 Dublin. The radio airwaves are filled with songs from bands such as Duran Duran and The Cure, and music videos are a hit with the teenagers of this decade. One of them is 15-year-old Conor Lalor (newcomer Fredia Walsh-Peelo). At home, Conor’s family life is a mess. His parents’ marriage is crumbling right before his eyes, and the family is struggling financially. In order to save money, Conor is placed at Synge Street CBS, a free, state-run Catholic school.
Throughout all the bullying and strict regulations he has to put up with, Conor finds that his escape from every horrible thing around him is through music. Though he can’t sing nor play an instrument that well, Conor decides he would like to start a band as a way to attract the beautiful, 16-year-old aspiring model Raphina (Lucy Boynton). So, he recruits Eamon (Mark McKenna), an expert at every instrument, to get things going. He also gets help from his older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), who educates him on the greatest musicians around, and also gives him advice on how he can win over Raphina.
Those who think Carney’s film is just a nostalgia trip and nothing else would be wrong. At one point, the audience could be rocking in their seats to the beat of “Drive it Like You Stole It” and “The Riddle of the Model,” both original songs Carney and Gary Clark wrote for “Sing Street.” The wardrobe and makeup all ring 80s, and there’s a terrific scene in which the band films their music video, giving Carney the opportunity to capture what was quintessential MTV during that decade.
But then Carney brings us back to the real world, where things are nowhere near as glamorous. There’s this thing called life in which all the characters must go through, and, as is the case here, it’s a heavy-hitter. Walsh-Peelo nails it as Conor. As he experiences the heartbreaks and headaches of being a teenager, it’s a treat to watch him grow and power through all of it. And the chemistry he shares with both Reynor and Boynton is superb.
Not only is “Sing Street” one of the most feel-good movies of the year; it’s also one of the best. Carney has created a smart, charming, and wildly entertaining feature that hits all the right notes. Like the songs that play throughout, it is destined to become a classic with which many generations will fall in love.