Wednesday, April 27, 2016

With SING STREET, John Carney goes three for three. Yes, a song can indeed save your life.

First Once. Then Begin Again. Now SING STREET. Filmmaker John Carney seems bent on proving to the world how important music is in all our lives. It certainly was in his own, as this latest and heavily biographical movie so buoyantly demonstrates. His first film used complete "unknowns" as its stars; his second tapped the talents of some very "known quantities" -- Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and others -- and succeeded as well.

With Sing Street, Carney (shown at left) is back to using more "unknowns" again, and the film is every bit as wonderful as his other two. It'll leave you walking on air, feeling delight in both living and listening -- to a score that pays homage to some of the great groups of the 80s while creating original songs that are bouncy and beautiful, graceful and gorgeous -- all on their own. As an added perk, the filmmaker may have jump-started the careers of two young performers we're bound to be seeing much more of in time to come.

Critics, while almost unanimously embracing the film, have mentioned that its story is anything but unique. Starting a band from scratch is not the newest idea to hit music, films or life itself, for that matter. Yet so utterly specific is Mr. Carney as writer and director, and so interesting, funny, moving and real are all the characters he and his actors have created that it is not in the least difficult to imagine you're seeing all this for the first time. And loving every damned minute.

Carney cleverly places us first in the family situation, as we see our hero, Cosmo, a marvelous debut by young actor Ferdia Walsh-Peelo (who might possibly want to consider adapting a "stage" name?). He is shown above, right, with Jack Reynor, who plays his older brother and mentor, Brendan, with such richness, subtlety, range and skill that Reynor comes very close to stealing the movie.

Yes, there have been many movies about starting a band. But the reason for starting this one is certainly a bit different: to impress and then get to know a slightly older girl named Raphina.  As played by Lucy Boynton (above), a veteran of some dozen roles already, it will be this role, I suspect, that puts Ms Boynton firmly on the map. She's beautiful and charismatic, all right, but she also possesses that particular quality of seeming even more so when she seems to trying the least.

Together, Cosmo and Raphina make quite a pair, and the girl's history of troubled parentage and having already another boyfriend just adds to the pair's chemistry and the movie's suspense. Ditto the troubled relationship of Cosmo's own parents (played by Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy) whose economics and intimacy are both spiraling downwards.

Each band member, even those given the least screen time, registers as special and real (that's Mark McKenna, above, right, as the band's smartest and most versatile member) -- and the school bully, too, has something interesting in store from the filmmaker. The songs, as I say, are just lovely. Best of all is the scene in the school gym/auditorium, with the band performing and Cosmo suddenly having a rather special and charmingly low-key-but-spectacular fantasy about everything he wants suddenly coming to fruition.

There are many high points in this wonderful film, but this scene, I think, reaches highest of all. It lets us know from where Mr. Carney is coming, and that, yes, for sure: a song can save your life. (I believe that last phrase was to be the title of Carney's second hit -- until someone had the lesser idea to change it to Begin Again.)

Sing Street, released via The Weinstein Company and running a just-about-perfect 106 minutes, opened to fairly rapturous reviews in NYC and L.A. a couple of weeks back. It opens across country this Friday, April 29. Here in South Florida, you can find it at the Gateway 4 in Ft. Lauderdale, the Regal South Beach in Miami Beach, the Cinemark Palace 20 in Boca Raton, and the Carmike Parisian @ City Place in West Palm Beach. Elsewhere? Just click here and enter your zipcode to learn the theater nearest you.

No comments: