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Review: ‘Sing Street’ pays homage to music, family, MTV

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

As a testament to the power of music, the bond of brotherhood and the boundless possibilities of youth, “Sing Street” just plain works.

It works because writer-director John Carney believes in his characters, his themes and his setting. It’s working-class Ireland in the early 1980s at the dawn of the MTV age, and Cosmo (newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is mesmerized by the music video for Duran Duran’s “Rio.”

The clip shows models on yachts and cool-looking musicians mugging for the camera. “What tyranny could stand up to that?” asks Cosmo’s older brother, Brendan (an excellent Jack Reynor), as the video plays on the living room TV. For young Cosmo, the video is an escape from his everyday reality.

He starts a band for the reason many bands are formed: to impress a girl. Specifically, he’s after the attention of Raphina (Lucy Boynton), a mysterious model-type who hangs out on the steps near his school. He casts her in a music video and then works backward to form a band and learn some songs.

For Carney, who hit a home run with “Once” and grounded out with “Begin Again,” “Sing Street” is a return to his roots. This isn’t a story about making it, it’s about dreams, rebelliousness, art and young love, as well as a loving homage to the music of the early 1980s. There’s a great exchange about how the music of the Cure defines “happy-sad.”

At the end of the film, “Sing Street” carries the dedication “for brothers everywhere,” and Carney’s own brother died as it entered production. That makes “Sing Street,” like the Cure, happy-sad. But it’s ultimately a triumphant celebration of music and life.

(313) 222-2284

‘Sing Street’


Rated PG-13: for thematic elements including strong language and some bullying behavior, a suggestive image, drug material and teen smoking

Running time: 106 minutes