This story line sounds familiar: Boy meets girl, boy tries to impress girl, boy and girl fall in love with comedic and/or touching hiccups along the way, right? But this is where Sing Street exceeds expectations. Romance is an important aspect of the film and contributes to Conor's motivations, but the movie takes unexpected directions and is ultimately more meaningful than its romantic parts.
Sing Street is first and foremost about how important music can be during the difficult years of early adolescence. 80s music by likes of Depeche Mode, the Cure, and Duran Duran punctuate the film and help Conor digest increasingly tense relationships with his parents and his school's sadistic principal. He uses music to find himself, both artistically and aesthetically, and often with comedic results.
Sing Street's characters clearly deal with adolescent internal crises yet remain funny, tough, and realistic enough to save the film from banality. Each character has a level of depth unusual for teenage movies, their difficult realities only focused upon long enough to make them realistic and instill sympathy in audiences. Backstories were explored, but never to an emotionally exhausting degree.
It was especially refreshing to watch the relationship between Conor and his brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor). Brendan is a moody, perpetually stoned college dropout with limited screen-time, yet Reynor excels in this role to such a degree that Brendan is one of the most likable characters in the film. The way he communicates with Conor is attentive and compassionate, and Reynor manifests this verbally and nonverbally. Facial expressions and body language communicate his inner conflicts, even when he is trying to hide them.
Brendan's less-than-glamorous qualities could easily have made him irritating, but instead he was relatable and emotionally affecting. He is especially gripping in the final scene, when he expresses both regret over his own life's direction and excitement for his brother's future. The bond between the brothers is strong and far from simple, and was the most touching relationship in the film.
Symmetrical cinematography, match-on-action shots, blunt dialogue, and precocious young characters remind audiences of Wes Anderson films, but with a gritty touch. Here, John Carney has managed to make a movie that is at once tough, funny, nostalgic, and heart-warming. I encourage everyone to see Sing Street: there is something here for everyone.