Writer-director John Carney struck gold in 2007 with the offbeat musical rom-com Once, and after an awkward dally to New York City with stars (2013’s Begin Again), he’s returned to fine form with this smaller, more winsome outing. It’s set in 1985 Dublin, and features a great collection of adorably goony teenagers.
Cosmo and his writing partner Eamon (Mark McKenna) deliver some oh-so-’80s tunes, including “The Riddle of the Model.” The band cycles through musical influences — Duran Duran, the “happy-sad” Cure, Spandau Ballet and Hall & Oates — each with hilariously appropriate thrift-shop costume changes and appropriately stylized if low-low-budget videos. Luckily, Cosmo has an older brother with a good record collection and seriously useful advice, both musical (“you need to know how not to play … and that takes practice”) and romantic (“no woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins”).
Sing Street is sweet and heartwarming, but like any great Irish tale, it is not without steady undercurrents of misery: dysfunctional families, brutal schools, the prospect of a bleak future. This film doesn’t open with news footage of the Irish youth diaspora for nothing, nor end in such an uplifting but bittersweet fashion.