John Carney’s story of New Romantic coming of age in 80s Dublin is a sweet, charming treasure. The film follows Conor as the recession causes the break up of his parents marriage and his transfer from a private Jesuit school to the rough Catholic local one. Here the misfits form a band, primarily to impress the cool and aloof Raphina, by telling her she will star in their video.
This is all fairly conventional plotwise, but the film differs from some of its contemporaries (such as the Commitments and Good Vibrations) by choosing the early days of music video as the focus, more than the music itself. I recall hiring a VHS video camera to shoot a birthday video for someone’s 21st, and filming was still a novelty back then. People would stop and ask what you were doing, with this cumbersome, but professional looking piece of kit. Early music video was quite punk in its ethic, and as this film reminds us, so was the New Romantic movement. There was a just do it, DIY ethos to both components of teh music industry then which Sing Street captures perfectly. It also avoids falling into the “oh, isn’t it a craic” cliches of Dublin.
It is worth seeing for the wisdom of Conor’s older brother, Brendan. For instance “No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins”. It may not have the most original plot, and it can veer towards the Disney Rebel Radio type school rebellion at times, but it’s a delightful film.