I spent a couple of glorious hours this evening reveling in 1980s Ireland. It was like stepping into a time machine and going back 30 years. I wore those clothes. I had those hair-dos. I listened to that music. I could even identify with the carriage clock on the mantelpiece, the orange curtains in the living room, and the standard lamp complete with tasselled lampshade. As for the mohair jumpers and the massive-framed glasses that would lead you to believe it was your cheeks that were shortsighted. Cue nostalgia. Deep sigh.
Set in Dublin in 1985, it’s a familiar story. Boy wants to impress girl. Tells her he has a band. Asks her to star in a video they’re making. Then has to go put a band together. John Carney, the mind behind the multi-awarding winning Once, is in his element. He’s on record somewhere as saying that this film fulfills all his childhood dreams. Through Cosmo, he gets the girl, has the band, and gets to tell the teachers to go screw themselves. It’s a low-budget flick that stars real people, people I could have been in school with back then, or lived beside, or gone down the disco with on a Saturday night (had I gone to a boys school in Dublin and been let out!)
The one actor I recognised, Aidan Gillan, (of Love/Hate, Game of Thrones, and The Wire fame), was disappointing and the least real of them all. But then, it wasn’t about him, I suppose. And movies don’t have to be real.
The lead, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, is just 16, from Co. Wicklow. After the film was shown at Sundance, he and co-star Mark McKenna, performed live. [Any Northbrook heads reading: Isn’t McKenna the image of Jacko?] I saw him interviewed on the Late, Late Show [long-running Friday-night chat show in Ireland] and thought he was a tad full of himself. That was before I saw the movie. And in fairness, he has something to be full of himself for. A great performance. I swear Cosmo blushed when he got to kiss Raphina, played by British actress Lucy Boynton.
Lucy is 22. Ferdia is 16. In the movie, she’s 15, he’s 14. But there’s an argument that 14 in 1985 would be the equivalent of 18 today…still I struggled with it. That said though, she did well. A class act. Remember her from Miss Potter, where she played the young Beatrix? Me neither. But she’s one to watch.
It was the brother, Brendan, though, who made the film for me. Jack Reynor, another Wicklow man, was great, simply great. He had me bawling by the end.
I liked the music, I liked the gear. I liked the Adam Ant make-up. Brilliant. To see the lads morph from dweebs into supercool, confident stars as the film goes is heartwarming. It’s worth going just to see their wardrobes evolve. And I think even if you didn’t grow up in 1980s Ireland, you’d find a lot to like about it. It’s still playing in various cinemas in the city so catch it while you can (Art+, Művész, and Puskin). And it’s also available on iTunes. I’d happily see it again, with a pen, so I could note some of the lines and get the little details that I might well have missed. There’s a lot going on.
If you don’t believe me, Rotten Tomatoes gives it 97%
Critics Consensus: Sing Street is a feel-good musical with huge heart and irresistible optimism, and its charming cast and hummable tunes help to elevate its familiar plotting.
[An aside: In English with Hungarian subtitles, I was amused to see that the subtitlers didn’t have a word for golliwog and used néger (negro) instead. I ran across an interesting article on how the golliwog went from innocent children’s hero to a symbol of racial controversy. It started with Enid Blyton they say, and her characters in Noddy, who were the antithesis of what Florence Kate Upton had envisaged back in 1895 and the start of the rocky road to aspersion.]