[Screen It]


(2016) (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton) (PG-13)

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Dramedy: A Dublin teenager puts together a band to impress a girl he's just met.
It's 1985 and Conor Lalor (FERDIA WALSH-PEELO) is a teen growing up in Dublin with his sister, Ann (KELLY THORNTON), their older brother, Brendan (JACK REYNOR), and their parents, Robert (AIDAN GILLEN) and Penny (MARIA DOYLE KENNEDY). Due to a lack of money, Conor is pulled from his private school and enrolled at the Synge Street School. There, he runs afoul of the headmaster, Brother Baxter (DON WYCHERLEY), for not having the correct color shoes, as well as local bully Barry (IAN KENNY).

He is befriended by another boy, Darren (BEN CAROLAN), and then sets sights on 16-year-old aspiring model, Raphina (LUCY BOYNTON), who lives in a nearby home for girls. Needing an in with her, Conor lies that he's in a band and they need a model for the new music video. She agrees, and Conor and Darren then set out to build one, starting with the talented Eamon (MARK McKENNA), followed by Ngig (PERCY CHAMBURUKA) and a few others.

With musical advice from Brendan, Conor and his new band attempt to emulate the sounds of contemporary bands, all while Darren serves as their manager and music video director. But as Conor gets better -- and takes on the stage name of "Cosmo" as given to him by Raphina -- he sets out to write his own songs, hoping to impress his model and muse enough that she'll dump her boyfriend and become his girlfriend.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
Oh, to be a young and talented person nowadays. With a ton of digital devices, editing software and online venues, if you will, it's fairly easy and not that expensive to make a movie, write a book, or record a song and then get it out in front of thousands and sometimes millions of people.

Back when I was growing up, before the Internet, video cameras or digital devices, you typed your book on a typewriter and submitted the manuscript, with next to no chance of the work being published. Film was even harder to break into, and music wasn't much easier, although you could record a song on reel to reel or cassette, take it down to your local radio station, and hope for the best.

Of course, sometimes such creative endeavors of the past had ulterior motives, such as having something to escape into from the harshness of the world, or trying to impress someone in hopes of winning over their heart.

Both of those are in play in the highly entertaining, charming and endearing "Sing Street." Marking writer/director John Carney third offering in telling a cinematic tale about musicians in a "let's put a band together" plot (following "Once" and "Begin Again"), the story is set in 1985 Dublin.

There, a fifteen-year-old boy (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo ) is having to cope with his parents (Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy -- she was in "The Commitments") coming to the end of their marriage, something that will not only affect him, but also his sister (Kelly Thornton) and college dropout brother (Jack Reynor). It also means his private school days are over, resulting in enrollment at the Synge Street school where its headmaster (Don Wycherley) doesn't like him and the school bully (Ian Kenny) sees him as easy pickings.

The only bright spot is catching sight of an alluring older woman (all of 16-years-old and as played by Lucy Boynton) who lives in a girls boarding house across the street. She fancies herself as a model and will be moving to London any day, but likes the attention Conor projects her way. Needing an in, he states he's in a band and they need a model for their newest music video (this being when MTV was really becoming a force in the music and cable TV world).

The only problem is there's no band or video crew, so Conor and his new best friend (Ben Carolan) quickly assemble a band (including the likes of Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka and others) and start taking a cue from both MTV and his older brother's musical tastes. That results in some funny moments of Conor and his band-mates becoming fashion chameleons while playing and imitating their latest influencers.

That, along with the music (both covers and eventually some original material) and the charming bits of the in-over-his-head boy trying to win over the seemingly unattainable girl alone would make the movie fly. But Carney also infuses some heavier plot and thematic material into the mix. Beyond the parental marital issues, there's the older brother realizing his status, promise and dreams may have passed him by, bullying in various shapes and sizes, and the seemingly perfect girl having a decidedly less than perfect life.

All of that material does start to overwhelm the comedy that's far more prevalent in the first half than in the second, but it thankfully doesn't suffocate the proceedings or circumvent the endearing charm or simple joy in watching both these characters and the story they're in unfold.

While some might complain that it's time for Carney to try a new sort of tale outside the putting a band together subgenre, as long as he keeps creating such engaging and entertaining offerings, I say let him keep it up. "Sing Street" is evidence he should, and the film rates as a 7 out of 10.

Reviewed April 13, 2016 / Posted May 6, 2016

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