#GFF16 SING STREET

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Director John Carney  Starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Mark McKenna, Kelly Thornton, Ian Kenny, Ben Carolan UK Release Date April 22

Let’s go through the checklist of everything you wanted to be when you reached that hazy age of fifteen: form a band/become a rockstar; wear clothes that substantially distinguish you from the crowd; have an enigmatic second half who would generate enough trouble and adventures for both of you.

The general consensus for all fifteen year olds seem to be this overpowering desire to rebel and stand out from the crowd. Something in our teenage brains just does not click and refuses to follow the general flow of the outside world. And if most of the coming-of-age dramas are eager to focus on and depict the sorrows and fragility of the adolescent sentiment (take the recent PAPER TOWNS, ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRL and THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL), John Carney’s SING STREET does something completely unexpected – it reverses the process and accentuates the perks of the state of not fitting in, devoting its catchy songs to all the young kooks and outsiders out there.

And to be completely frank – thank God for John Carney, who, regardless of his age, is still a young romantic at heart, and believes in the power of music, love and teenage insubordination. While we are drowning in the depressive state of the filmmakers’ minds, who refuse to make peace with their childhood and tend to splash all their traumas over the big screen, Carney decides to glorify his adolescent days and redeem them as a time of sublime recklessness, impulsivity and phantom hopefulness.

SING STREET is a love song to his native 1980s Dublin, where kids, hit hard by the impoverished economy and redundancy, had to find ways to stand out from the crowd and express themselves. SING STREET reflects his most sincere motivations – the films is brimming with the youthful enthusiasm of the filmmaker, pumping the joy levels to the highest volume.

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There is no doubt that growing up is an extremely painful and unpredictable process – you always become a guinea pig to an array of socio-economical and personal circumstances which can make or break your easily manipulated personality. And the film’s protagonist Conor (fantastic Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) learns this in a hard way – his parents, seriously affected by the financially exhausted state of Ireland, are not able to pay for his private tuition and are forced to send him to the public school in the ‘rough’ ends. There Conor meets a mysterious and an extremely good-looking Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who he is instantly eager to impress. Gathering all the school misfits in his spur-of-a-moment decision to form a band, Conor starts getting more and more inspiration to actually make something out of it and prove to Raphina that he can change both of their lives and provide a better future.

And while the familiar jaunty melodies of The Cure, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet are blasting from the screen, we are left flabbergasted how the pattern of Conor’s stylistic transformations matches the increasing lunacy and inventiveness of his band Sing Street’s music videos. Enveloped in our own unfulfilled teenage goals, we follow Carney’s teens as they channel all their inner angst and creativity and make something beautiful and original out of they hard social predicament.

Again, kudos to John Carney for projecting all his bottomless infatuation for the MTV-crazed generation of the 80s into some outstanding original material. Walsh-Peelo and co extravagantly embody their musical alter-egos and brilliantly perform Carney-written gems like ‘The Riddle of A Model’ and ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’, which are promised to become massive hits when the film hits the big screens (and which, by the way are already gathering a cult status following the band’s impromptu rendition of the songs at the film’s Sundance premiere).

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The director makes sure that the excellence of the film is not only carried based on its musical merits.The chemistry between all the characters is unprecedented – somehow it might even seem that we are witnessing an old and forgotten band documentary. Every single character in the film is unique in his/her own way, from the quiet song co-writer Eamon (Mark McKenna) to the zealous red-head wannabe band manager Darren (Ben Carolan). Carney does not need to accentuate the traits of a particular person – all characters subtly pollinate the screen with the sparks of their original charm and loveliness. The biggest amount of applause goes to Jack Reynor’s character and Conor’s older music aficionado-brother Brendan, whose endearing self-deprecation makes his and Conor’s relationships one of the most cherished in the film, establishing the vital roots for the film’s progression.

Because SING STREET, as much as it is about youth and hopeless romanticism, it is also about this rare magic that sustains between two brothers who inspire each other to do greater things in life. After all, it is not incidental that film’s endnote ’for brothers everywhere’ appears in the running credits.

Maybe somewhere along the way to the scary state of “being grown up” we lost the notion of how enchanting and fascinating it actually is to be an ignorant teenager, who is derived from the unfriendly world of reality by their own limitless imaginary powers. But luckily for us John Carney has managed to channel all his adolescent memories and reflections into the magnetic powers of SING STREET, which, as a result, exudes the most contagious energy that will cocoon us back into the days of our impetuous juvenile rebellions. It is still okay not to belong for the sake of belonging, says Carney with his new film. SING STREET is better than it promises to be – something no one can miss out on. 

         The Final Word: a much needed light-hearted take on the complexities of adolescent life

Guest written by Julia Malahovska @juicedotjuice

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