A mixture of The Commitments’ ‘f**k you - we’re Irish’, Once’s tenderness and the cute-toughness of Swedish drama’s We Are The Best, John Carney’s charming and warm comedy is a winner.
With fifteen-year-old Cosmo’s (Walsh-Peelo) parents on the verge of splitting up, having to move to a new school, running a gauntlet of psychotic bullies (Ian Kenny) and cruel Christian Brothers (Don Wycherley), the last thing he needs is to invite more pressure on himself. But that he does, claiming to hot stuff older girl Rafina (Boynton) that he’s in a band. Now he has to go and form one and, you know, learn how to play and sing. Rounding up would-be musicians from the school, including multi-instrumental genius Eamonn (Mark McKenna), the titular band set about getting some tunes down under the guidance of Cosmo’s college dropout brother Brendan (Reynor).
Carney’s genuine love for the era – Dublin, 1984 when imperial Top of the Pops was must-see Thursday night viewing - and the fashion comes across with stonewashed denim, Cureheads and bad moustaches in the mix. The writer-director gets all the laughs he’s after as the band, looking for a sense of style, make their way through a who’s who of 80s New Wave and New Romantic outfits (although it’s hard to see that a clued-in student like Reynor’s dope-smoker, who has Nico’s Chelsea Girls on his shelf, would push his younger brother towards a sound and style championed by Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet).
Some scenarios stretch credibility and climactic showdown between Cosmo and Wycherley falls short of Andrew McCarthy’s face-off with Jay Paterson’s ill-tempered Brother in Catholic Boys, just one of the references Sing Street likes to drop in, by all the right notes are hit. The central romance is touching and sweet (despite the age difference there is chemistry between Boynton and Walsh-Peelo) while the supporting characters – Eamonn’s (McKenna is just a delight) take-it-as-it-comes attitude, the anger and frustration bubbling under Brendan’s every utterance, and the bristling verbals exchanged between mum (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and dad (Aiden Gillen) – are all given their own moment to shine. And, bar one or two ballads (that the band apologise for in advance), the original songs are great, especially Drive It Like You Stole It (not a Glitch Mob cover).