If you’re partial to a bit of Spandau Ballet, backcombed hair and a Dublin accent, look no further for your weekend’s entertainment than Sing Street.
Set in Dublin in 1985, this upbeat musical comedy - out in cinemas now - focuses on Conor Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a 15-year-old student from a rough senior school run by the Christian Brothers, who decides to pull together a band from a bunch of misfit classmates with the aim, of course, of impressing a girl.
But if the word ‘musical’ has you expecting a cheese-fest of dance numbers and cringe-inducing one-liners, think again.
Sing Street is packed full of witty dialogue (“No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins”) and a superb amalgamation of Eighties tunes which will have you walking home to the beats of Hall & Oates mulling over whether you’re ever really too old to start a band.
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Sing Street – the name of the band inspired by the boys’ school Synge Street – dabbles with an eclectic range of Eighties musical influences, from the hypnotic romanticism of Duran Duran to Hall & Oates’ upbeat pop. But what’s more fascinating is the group’s fashion evolution.
If it’s not Conor’s Kajagoogoo blonde fringe, the band’s backcombed bouffants and Culture Club-inspired sunglasses, it’ll be Raphina’s Madonna-style hoop earrings and big hair that will have you searching for the nearest can of hairspray and rainbow-coloured bomber jacket.
Boynton says: “The costume department were born in the Eighties so they styled me from a lot of their experiences. I researched a lot about the fashion and music videos at the time to gauge the trends. My costume for Raphina was as much like Raphina’s costume for Raphina. She wears a lot of bold make-up and colourful costumes to give the impression she’s a confident, Debbie Harry-like character and in control of how people perceive her.”
There are strong feel-good vibes
Director John Carney (writer-director extraordinaire of Oscar-winning romance Once and Begin Again) has scored a hat-trick with Sing Street, imbuing the film with the perfect balance of optimism as well as dealing with the harsher elements of the loss of childhood, broken dreams, poverty and family breakdowns.
“As a viewer, you appreciate the feel-good moments so much more, because John presents the darker, more poignant sides to characters’ stories,” Boynton says.
“There’s never a need to glamorise problems. He has portrayed flawed humans with rough edges and weaknesses, which makes it much easier for the audience to relate to.”
It’s seriously hilarious
From the outset, Sing Street will have you quietly chuckling to yourself. For example, when Conor decides he wants to form a band, his older brother Brendan assures him that to be a great musician, you don’t need musical talent.
“You need to learn how to not play, Conor. That's the trick, that's rock 'n' roll. And that takes practice,” he says.
The film’s humour lies in the fact that it doesn’t try too hard to be funny. “All the jokes are incredibly nuanced. It’s the kind of humour that makes the audience feel like they’re listening into their private conversations. It’s very Irish,” says Boynton.
One of the funniest moments in the film is the shooting of the music video for the band’s first song The Riddle Of The Model - one of Boynton’s favourite memories from filming.
“It was my second day of filming and I just remember seeing [director] John Carney trying to teach [Walsh-Peelo, who plays Conor] Ferdia all of these awkward teenage dance moves from the Eighties. Seeing the two of them act it out together while the rest of the cast was dressed in cowboy getup and velvet suits was a very surreal moment,” she says.
When you watch Sing Street, you can’t help notice how real it all seems. Similar to Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and Dazed and Confused, Carney specifically cast unknown actors in the film, which Boynton believes makes it all the more authentic.
She says: “The first scene Ferdia and I filmed together was when our characters meet for the first time and Ferdia’s slight awkwardness really worked in that moment. It was his first time on a film set and his nervousness was really palpable.”
It has the Eighties soundtrack of your dreams
The film boasts an impressive soundtrack with iconic tunes from the likes of The Jam, Motörhead and The Cure, guiding not only the band’s musical taste but also the plot. Brendan is the mastermind behind the band’s revolution, allowing Conor to borrow from his impressive LP collection which serves as a musical education for the somewhat musically naïve 15-year-old. But it wasn’t just the characters who developed a penchant for Eighties beats.
Lucy says: “I’ve always been into Eighties music like The Cure but the film had a big impact on my musical tastes. I’d begin my days filming listening to Eighties music and then watch a lot of Duran Duran and Madonna videos to get a sense of the attitude at the time.”
Sing Street is in cinemas now
Watch the official trailer below