It’s Dublin, 1985 and Conor Lalor’s life is falling apart. His parents are getting divorced and the money is running out. Conor is forced to change schools, moving from a posh private school to a rough inner-city one run by the Christian brothers. Everything is going to pot.
But Conor has a dream. He’s fallen in love with Raphina, a girl he spies everyday from the school steps. In order to impress her, he has to put a band together and make a pop video, which he hopes Raphina will star in.
Need a band? Make a band! This is the 1980s and people can form a group just by knocking on the doors of other kids. Conor meets Eamon, a super-talented musician whose dad is a wedding singer. Suddenly, the kids have a both a band and some instruments, courtesy of Eamon’s dad, so they start writing songs in the living room while Eamon’s mum potters about making cups of tea.
I loved this film so much. With shows like Stranger Things introducing modern kids to the world of a 1980s childhood, those of who were there are starting to appreciate the life we had. You really could start a band just by knocking on a stranger’s door: that’s exactly what Johnny Marr did when he went round to Morrissey’s house and they founded The Smiths.
People did wear homemade sweaters that relatives made from women’s magazines. If you wanted to make a video, you just used a basic camera and didn’t worry about any expensive computer post-production, because it didn’t exist. Kids felt free to do what they wanted without the pressure of making everything look polished and professional.
But my goodness the 1980s were also so boring. There’s a wonderful moment in Sing Street where the kids are all listening to records in their bedrooms while dad is downstairs watching snooker on TV.
Back then, TV shows like Top of the Pops were a big event. Everyone did rush down to the living room to see the latest hits on the TV. I can still remember to this day the first time I saw Boy George or Twisted Sister on Top of the Pops. In humdrum rural Hampshire, I had never seen anything like it.
Nor had the teachers at Conor’s school. Once he starts the band, he gets his mojo back. Each week he turns up at school in more and more outrageous haircuts, pushing the rules as far as they would go. This kid has guts. As always, social change comes not through mass movements but through the decisions that individuals make in their everyday lives.
Sing Street is a musical comedy that is going to become a cult classic. The music is great. It has a feel-good story all about how rock and roll saved the world. Producer Harvey Weinstein has spotted its potential too. His company is giving the film the distribution it deserves. If it comes your way, make sure you check it out.
In a world of mega-movies with billion dollar budgets, it’s this small-scale, heartwarming, and fun picture that is my film of the year.