Sing Street | Film review – Young love, mad hair and infectiously catchy songs

In mid-1980s Dublin a lovestruck schoolboy forms a band in John Carney's feel-good musical set in the era of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and The Cure.

Following his New York sojourn for 2013’s comedy-drama Begin Again, writer-director John Carney returns home to Dublin, stamping ground of 2007’s underdog hit Once, for his latest heart-warming celebration of the joys and solace of making music.

A departure for Carney is that Sing Street is set in the past; another is that it has teenage protagonists; and this combination gives his new film a nostalgic sweetness and exuberance that is thoroughly winning.

It’s 1985, Ireland is in recession and the film’s 15-year-old hero, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo’s Conor, has just been pulled out of his private Jesuit school by his cash-strapped, separating parents and plonked in a tough local state school.

Hopelessly green and an instant target for bullies, he decides to form a band, partly as a means of survival but mostly as a way of impressing impossibly cool 16-year-old wannabe model Raphina (Lucy Boynton).

Having told her on the spur of the moment that he needs a model for the video he is shooting, he recruits geeky multi-instrumentalist Eamon (Mark McKenna) and four other misfit pupils to make good on his bluster.

The gang’s ensuing adventures are an absolute delight, allowing Carney and his collaborators to deliver fond pastiches of the era’s pop music as Conor and his chums shoot a series of shoestring videos, changing their musical and sartorial styles from song to song, hairdo to hairdo, depending on which band – Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, The Cure, The Jam – they have just seen on Top of the Pops.

The songs, written by Gary Clark and Carney, are infectiously catchy and Conor and Raphina’s budding romance – beautifully played by Walsh-Peelo and Boynton – is utterly charming, too.

Certificate 12A. Runtime 106 mins. Director John Carney

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