I think I just found my most favorite musical movie, ever. Not Beauty and the Beast, not Sweeney Todd, nor The Sound of Music, nor even La La Land. (For the record, I actually gave up watching La La Land just after three minutes into the movie where the people were all stuck in a traffic jam and begin singing and dancing on the highway… good Lord I just can’t.) For me, it’s definitely Sing Street (2016). Despite the fact that I was having a hard time trying to understand what those quirky 80’s Irish teenagers try to pronounce, there was just that particular sort of constant gaiety I felt all the way from the very beginning to the end which beautifully segued into a burst of consolation at the end, knowing that the heroes of the movie finally make it to the end with an unharmed heart although not necessarily easier lives ahead.
The theme probably sounds like a more everyday kind of plot where a 15-year-old Irish folk of a broken, financially-troubled family was transferred to another school where he was exposed to even a more harsh environment and found himself falling in love to a 16-year-old stranger who works as a self-proclaimed model. The story then revolves around these two, when Conor/Cosmo (Ferdia Welsh-Peelo) decides to form a rock ‘n roll band so that Raphina (Lucy Boynton) gets to be the model in the band’s music videos, even though each of their worlds seems to be falling apart as well in the background. What makes it uniquely interesting is that the movie was shot in 1980’s setting where music video was a breakthrough that just got surfaced at the moment, and it was also the era where many Irish youngsters sailed to London for the sake of new hopes and dreams as shown by the early sequences in the movie, thus everything matches Conor’s personal circumstance.
With the help of five other folks from that same school, Conor formed a band called Sing Street. Here’s where I found my latest actor crush: Mark McKenna who was playing Eamon, the guitarist of the band who could basically play anything from synthesizer to traditional flute and loves his collection of bunnies very much. This is also the first movie where I recall seeing an African-Irish with a real Irish accent who was played by Percy Chamburuka, which to me adds a nice little touch of something trivial yet still amusing and on point.
But of course, a bunch of 15-year-olds would need to have a heroic figure of older age to help themselves figure out where they want to head to and what sort of accomplishment they would like to achieve with their music. Here comes the role of Conor’s big brother, 21-year-old Brendan (Jack Reynor). Brendan is a college dropout who still cannot figure out what he’s going to do with his life and whose lives are solaced by rock ‘n roll music and vinyl collections as his escape from the haunting failures he had made. The relationship built between Conor and Brendan is also one of the things that I dig the most, particularly when the seemingly careless Brendan that carries so much on his shoulder finally witnesses his younger brother break his own boundaries and chase what matters for him at the present time, and gives Brendan the consolation and pride for he failed to do the same thing when he was about the same age.
And as their parents argue with each other all the time, the two brothers and their middle sibling, Ann (Kelly Thornton) are trying to secede from their wrecked home by minding their own business and sometimes listening to the vinyl records together. Ann who seems to be the most innocent of all was spotted sneaking to try her first cigarette while the loud music was playing inside the bedroom, Brendan with his early quarter-life crisis that is invested in the way he tried hard to raise Conor to be the better version of himself that he used to want to be, and of course Conor who was focusing to get the heart of the girl he loves through something he loves, music.
It was the everyday scenes evolving through the impact that music brings that construct the grandeur of this movie. From overcoming Conor’s anxiety toward Barry (Ian Kenny), the bully that he immediately attracts; to changing Conor’s hate and fear about nonsense rule in his school into piece of art that gets to be enjoyed by his fellow schoolmates; to how Conor begins to find comfort and passion in his small, difficult life through creating music; to helping the three siblings reconnect despite all the wrong things life has done to them; to how the personnel of the band builds their trust and friendship; and most importantly, how it helped Conor to figure out how to chase something that truly means a lot for his happiness. They were all little things that might as well happen in many people’s everyday lives, but seeing all of them unfolds piece by piece within such neat and orderly cinematography assured me that everyone could pursue their dreams if only they begin working on something that they love. Well, being a 15-year-old, Connor might not exactly know what he wants and needs to accomplish with his life of course, but at least he did something right by pursuing what matters at the moment.
But of course solace has to begin with taking risks. Talking to the attractive stranger across the street that makes your heart beats faster when you do, starting up a band even when you don’t play any instrument, wearing make-up to school as an external accessory to acknowledge the world about your internal self even though you’re a guy, and of course running away from everything you’re familiar with to grasp fresh new opportunities. While we observe Conor overcoming more and more challenges as the time elapsed, personally to me it’s just satisfying to see how a simple scene beginning in an ugly bedroom where a boy plays his guitar with discordant tunes ends with him breaking away from all the boundaries the world has set for him.
Also, just like other romance-infused movies that made it to my personal favorite list, I was made rooting for all the subtle, quiet scenes where Conor and Raphina developed their bond from nothing to something. From an underestimated, awkward point of start that wasn’t expected to blossom, to the point where I could even feel the discomfort of watching the person you’re rooting for sitting there undisturbedly while you are filled with the torment of untold confessions, until the final stage where you get the nerve to unleash whatever beast that keeps you away from reaching them. Nothing too fancy, just some walk in the park, singing them a song about themselves without them knowing, impromptu afternoon picnic near the seashore, and concluded beautifully with the grand plan of sailing away to the bigger world across the sea.
Now I am left wondering why I haven’t watched John Carney‘s first movie debut, Once (2006). Sing Street shares the same path with his other movie–Begin Again (2013)–in the way of how music has helped people to grow bigger and stronger, in a simplistic yet entertaining way that is far from the humdrum of mundane events; so maybe (and supposedly) Once is just as beautifully subtle and it’s definitely on my upcoming must-watch list.