John Carney’s Sing Street is a wonderful movie for 98% of its run-time. The performances are confident, the romance is genuinely sweet, the music is catchy, and as usual, Carney’s ability to weave a music-themed plot in with distinctive character work yields some absolutely fantastic scenes. And then, inexplicably, during the last few minutes, the film just totally craps the bed, after you’d been lead to believe that it was fully potty-trained. And I just don’t get it. The narrative isn’t anything revolutionary: Boy meets girl and boy wants girl so boy creates a band to woo the girl. He’s got trouble at home (his parents are about to split) and his relationship with his brother is unique to say the least. But Carney has a knack with charm and a great ear for naturalistic dialogue, and he always loves his characters despite their flaws. He’s also able to consistently conjure up a believable sense of atmosphere, especially during the music-based sequences and the scenes set at Catholic school; visually, it feels totally in line with the same sort of unassuming aesthetic that he’s set in place during his last two films, the lightning-in-a-bottle masterpiece Once and the deeply underrated gem Begin Again.
It’s just that those last few minutes truly taint what otherwise would have been an across-the-board winner. Carney has stood out from other directors with romantic storytelling aspirations because he understands the laws of the universe, and he subscribes to the believable rather than cheap fairy tale. And while the final scenes don’t totally sink the film, I really do wish that other creative ideas had been explored. However, there are some really big laughs and small grace notes sprinkled all around the film as a whole, the acting by the charismatic yet vulnerable Ferdia Wals-Peelo and the alluring Lucy Boynton as the potential love birds holds your attention all throughout, while everyone in the supporting cast, both young and old, are given numerous chances to shine. I’m just at a loss for words as to understand what Carney was doing during the final moments of this mostly lovely movie. He undermines his own central theme, it’s poorly staged and shot, and it feels like a jarring tonal shift when compared to his two previous films, which felt more organic and sure of themselves by their conclusion. Sing Street is too good to have fallen apart at the end.
Review by Nick Clement