Release Date(s)2016 (July 26, 2016)
Studio(s)Likely Story/Irish Film Board (Anchor Bay/The Weinstein Company)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: C
Every once in a while, an indie film shows up, seemingly out of the blue, that shakes off the trends of its day and feels like a breath of fresh air. Sing Street is that film for 2016. It’s an instant classic and a brilliant reminder of a kind of filmmaking that used to be commonplace, but that’s now all too rare. Not only does Hollywood not make movies like this anymore, it wouldn’t even occur to them to try.
Written and directed by John Carney (of Once and Begin Again fame – both also well worth your time if you haven’t seen them), the film is set in Dublin in 1985 and tells the story of a 14-year-old Irish boy named Conor (played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), who’s forced to attend a new Catholic school due to money troubles and a family life in turmoil. Thankfully, though he’s picked on at school by day, he’s able to escape into a love of music by night, with his older brother Brendan (Jack Reynor) serving as his guide. But it’s when Conor meets Raphina (Lucy Boynton) that his life really begins to change. Raphina is sexy, mysterious, and claims to be a model, so Conor asks if she’d like to appear in a music video his band is making… which means that he suddenly needs to form a band! He does, of course, and soon the act of writing and performing catchy songs and making videos together not only bonds Conor and Raphina with a group of new and lifelong friends, it makes them all believe that anything is possible.
Sing Street is pure joy from start to finish. The film is funny, charming, and full of heart, with surprisingly sage observations on the nature of family, brotherhood, and friendship. It perfectly captures the feeling of what it was like to grow up as a teenager in the early 1980s. And the music! The soundtrack includes classic tracks by Duran Duran, The Cure, The Jam, and others, as well as eight infectious and hooky original tracks (performed by the title band) that will stick in your head for days after you finish watching. If “Drive It Like You Stole It” had come out in 1985, it would have blown up the Billboard charts and been in constant rotation on MTV. Hell, there’s even a fantasy 1950s dance number in this film that’s straight out of Footloose and serves as a nice homage to Back to the Future too. With the exception of Game of Throne’s Adian Gillen (who plays Conor’s father) the cast here is relatively unknown on this side of the Atlantic, but they’re spot on to the last member. Best of all, Sing Street boasts that rarest of all virtues in cinema today: a damn-near perfect ending.
As newly released on Blu-ray by Anchor Bay and The Weinstein Company, the film is presented in solid 1080p HD video quality (2.39:1 aspect ratio). It was shot on a combination of 35mm film, VHS (for one of the period music videos), and RED RAW digital, but it all blends together well. The film’s palette is a little subdued, with the colors occasionally looking a bit washed out, but presumably this was a deliberate choice to capture the period setting. Nevertheless, contrast and detail are both quite good throughout. The sound is offered in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and it’s terrific, with a mix that envelopes you in the music. Optional subtitles include English (for the Hearing Impaired) and Spanish. Though the audio mix is generally clean and clear, the English subs are occasionally useful for moments when the characters are speaking in especially thick accents or using local slang. Bonus features on the Blu-ray aren’t plentiful, but include Making Sing Street (4:54 – HD), Writer/Director John Carney & Adam Levine Talk Sing Street (3:25 – HD), and John Carney on Casting (1:56 – HD), as well as Cast Auditions for each of the kids in the band (HD – approximately 15 minutes in all). There’s also a song selection option, which is a nice touch, and you get a Digital HD copy code on a paper slip in the packaging.
Sing Street is a pure throwback to such 80s classics as The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Pretty in Pink, with a dash of The Commitments thrown in for good measure, yet it manages to feel fresh somehow too. It’s also unabashedly optimistic. This a story about first love, coming of age, and the sheer joy of music. It’s about that time in every young life when it still feels as if all you have to do to make your dreams come true is reach out and grab them. Most of all, Sing Street is, hands down and flat out, one of the best films of the year. Absolutely do not miss it.
- Bill Hunt