Movie Review: Sing Street

Sing Street is boundlessly enjoyable and irresistibly euphoric, making it feel like the most worthwhile movie watching experience I’ve had in years.  Directed by John Carney, who achieved fame creating 2007’s surprise musical hit Once, again packs this film with very good original music (Composed by veteran music producer Gary Clark) to effectively enhance the emotional impact of the story.  The film takes the well-worn (i.e overdone) plot line of a troubled youth escaping his depressing home life through music, and while strictly adhering to every cliche of the genre, it elevates the story into something spectacular and life-affirming.

The film’s protagonist is Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), an unassuming frail waif of a teen, who inside carries the heart of a champion.  Whereas in a typical coming of age/band formation story the protagonist would admire his muse from afar, crippled by nerves, Conor walks right up to her and asks if she wants a light for the unlit cigarette hanging from her lips.  Conor’s queen Raphina (Lucy Boynton) is a fascinating character, reacting to her own depressing circumstance with an iron-faced confidence, she stands on the stoop of the girl’s home where she lives across from the all boys school that Conor attends everyday, watching.

Rafina’s a ward of the State whom we’re led to believe may have been taken away from her father because of sexual abuse (this is only ever hinted at), and she has only threadbare dreams of becoming a model in London.  However, she is the catalyst that drives every major step in the creation of this band, and the chemistry she has with Conor quickly becomes the focal point of the movie.  Around this relationship Carney found a cast of extremely charming and talented teenagers, particularly Mark McKenna and Ian Kenny, to pack the rest of the film with hilariously honest moments.

Sing Street is a movie about dreams, and the way they can seem impossible until true passion and heartfelt fervor can put them in reach before you know it.  This brings us to another key character, Conor’s older brother Robert. Robert is a 20-something college dropout who once upon a time had musical dreams of his own, but rather than any type of jealousy, he loves imparting his love of popular music onto Conor.  Robert’s deep love for his little brother is written on his face at every scene.  At one moment in the film, Robert leaps into the air with triumphant joy at Conor’s courage and risk-taking, and watching Sing Street made me want to join along.

Sing Street (2016)

Director: John Carney

Writer: John Carney

Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo as Conor

Lucy Boynton as Raphina

Jack Reynor as Robert

Trailer addendum: This trailer, when I first saw it, seemed hokey like a paint-by-numbers coming-of-age story, and in a way that’s what Sing Street is, but having seen the movie, even the trailer is joyously powerful.

 

Movie Review: Sing Street

Poem: Mainstream

Watching blockbusters is like floating in the dead sea

and to promote the basest of our culture with my hard collected nickels ensures

that they will perpetuate from their own selves like a sucking serpent

posed in a spiral, but I love it so, sometimes.  Guiltless joy is a great thing

hard to come by these days in the pit with the fire raining

on the heads of us bloody contestants, so maybe some sedative

is okay just to treat this moment’s darkness like a lantern

but a candle comes, dim and distant, elsewhere.  One thing is always exemplum

for all things, the statue in the corner

is a broken and slurping decay of the old clock tower

memorial plaque for the unknown, victims and left behind’s remember

the date if they’re alive and most of them aren’t

but those remaining can’t count their losses

on all fingers, so go to the movie, it got pretty good reviews.

Poem: Mainstream

Movie Review: Before Sunset (2004)

Before Sunset (2004)

Director: Richard Linklater

Writers: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Richard Linklater

Stars: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy

Before Sunset, Richard Linklater’s follow-up to his well-received 1995 date movie Before Sunrise, is to me is the most effectively emotional, wonderfully acted, and masterfully contrived romance in the history of film.  In Before Sunrise, having just broken up with his long-time girlfriend (he was dumped), directionless college student Jesse (Ethan Hawke) spends a daylong whirlwind romance with spunky french beauty Celine (Julie Delpy).  The film ends on a major cliffhanger, with the young lovers promising to meet each other on a certain day at a certain place in six months.  As Before Sunset begins, it’s been 9 years, and Jesse is on a publicity tour for his new novel, This Time, which is a fictionalized account of the night he and Celine spent together almost a decade ago.  He stops to do a book signing in Paris, and just before leaving the bookstore he sees Celine, a beautiful vision from the past.  Together, they have another day of romance, in which they speak at great length about their their lives and their feelings, and we see it all.

I say that we see all of it because at the moment during Jessie’s book signing when he first sees Celine, we begin to follow them, completely without cuts.  The entire film is one extended conversation between these two former lovers, wherein we see that in their time apart the love they shared has not shriveled up, and is more intensely felt than ever.  At the moment Jesse first sees Celine he is answering a question about future book ideas, and as he first sets eyes on her, he is in the middle of saying “. . . and it’s obvious to him that time is a lie.”  This is significant, to me, because at the moment when he sees her, he is transported back to the way he felt on their first night together.  In the moment when they first set eyes on each other, a huge set of powerful and contradictory emotions is written on each of their faces, and these emotions are brought fully by the masterful performances of the two leads.

Hawke and Delpy (who also co-wrote the script along with director Richard Linklater) step into the characters of Celine and Jesse easily, imbuing each with intense emotion.  Hawke, as Jesse, spends most of the film staring at Delpy’s Celine, mesmerized by her beauty and absorbed by everything she says.  Delpy’s Celine is extremely intelligent and self-possessed, but when Jesse is near her jabbering to himself, she can’t tear herself away.  Both characters spend the film trading monologues, each fascinated by everything the other says, and filled with heavy longing.  I’ve seen it many times, and I would recommend, when watching the film, watching the face of the character being spoken to rather than the one speaking.  The silent emotion on each of their faces is the core of the film.

The emotion constantly spilling onto the characters faces is so obvious that I could not help but feel the same.  In one scene, late in the film, when Jesse describes two recurring dreams he has about her, Celine reaches her hand out, almost touching the back of his head, before pulling her hand back, embarrassed.  This moment, to me, perfectly describes the relationship of these two star-crossed lovers.  He is entirely obsessed with her, she is always on his mind and filling him with love.  She in turn is intoxicated with him, and is as devoted to him as he is to her.  If I’ve seemed to get a bit flowery and romantic in my language, it is only a consequence of having just re-watched Before Sunset.  I whole-heartedly recommend the film, for its intelligence, its acting, and most of all for its flood of emotion.

Before-Sunset-before-sunrise-before-sunset-794913_1280_1024.jpg

Movie Review: Before Sunset (2004)