John Carney’s Sing Street is just a delight. The movie tells the story of Conor, a 15 year old in 1985 Dublin who is watching things kind of crumble around him. His parents are on the verge of splitting up and their finances are so tight he’s being pulled from his quality school to one with a less than stellar reputation. So he doesn’t have any friends outside of his stoner older brother and doesn’t know where he’s going. After being bullied by both students and administrators, one day he sees a girl standing across the street and approaches her. To impress her he claims he’s in a band when he’s not and the rest of the movie is about him making that come true to keep her attention.
The marketing campaign that sold it earlier this year emphasized all of the charm but with none of the drama that adds some stakes to the story, at least outside of Conor’s quest to woo Raphina. That’s given plenty of coverage in the trailer and other material. But there are a half-dozen other elements to the story that form the rest of Conor’s inspiration and motivation that are completely missing.
That’s too bad because that makes the movie seem very one-dimensional. Conor’s being taken out of school seems, in the trailer, like a minor event that just pushes events into motion for him. And while the latter part of that true, it sets up much more of the story than it might seem from what’s on display here.
Instead of simply being an instigating incident, the dissolution of Conor’s parent’s marriage runs counter to his own growing self-expression and identity. He keeps getting more and more confident as his parents drift further and further apart. Not only that, but he defies the rules and orders of the head priest at the school he’s consigned to keep growing as a person and as an artist, ultimately becoming so self-aware and headstrong that he makes a big decision to not only follow his dreams but do so in a way that’s completely outside his comfort zone.
The marketing was concerned with selling a sweet coming of age story that would particularly appeal to fans of 1980s synth-pop. But the finished movie is still a sweet coming of age story, though one that earns its finale in a way that’s not completely hinted at in the campaign.