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Film / Sing Street

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Boy Meets Girl. Girl Unimpressed. Boy Starts Band.

Sing Street is a 2016 Irish musical comedy-drama film directed written and produced by John Carney.

In 1985 Dublin, 15-year-old Conor Lalor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo)'s family is facing financial troubles that lead them to transfer him from a private Jesuit school to a publicly-funded Christian Brothers one where he forms a band to impress an arising model named Raphina (Lucy Boynton). The film's soundtrack features songs from the era by artists like Duran Duran, The Cure, Joe Jackson, and Daryl Hall & John Oates.

Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy star as Conor's parents, and Jack Reynor as his older brother Brendan.

Tropes used in this film:

  • Abusive Parents: Barry has an alcoholic father who physically and emotionally abuses him. Raphina has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it line implying that her father sexually abused her while her mother was committed.
  • The Ace: Eamon can play any instrument. Including xylophone and conga drums.
  • Advertised Extra:
    • Aidan Gillen and Maria Doyle Kennedy barely feature in the film.
    • Trailers made it seem as if Evan had a bigger part. While his influence is definitely there, he's offscreen for most of the film.
  • Album Intro Track: First track of the soundtrack is Brendan's "Rock n Roll is a risk" speech.
  • Alliterative Title
  • Awful Wedded Life: Conor's parents fight constantly. Brendan describes them as two youngsters who "got married just so they could have sex" and tired of each other quickly.
  • Badass Bystander: A random student prevents Brother Baxter from turning off the lights before a song about him gets played - by smashing the switches with a fire extinguisher.
  • Basement-Dweller: Brendan dropped out of college and is reduced to staying in his parents' house.
  • Berserk Button: Brendan flips when Conor doubts his chances of quitting smoking pot and making something of his life.
  • Big "YES!": Brendan gets one when Conor and Raphina head out on the boat.
  • Bully Turned Buddy: Barry is the standard school bully who's giving Conor a hard time. Later on, though, he joins Conor as a roadie for his band and they become buddies.
  • Cool Teacher: Implied with Conor's art teacher, who compliments him on the band and supervises a video shoot in the school. She's seen excitedly dancing at their gig.
  • Cover Version: Conor and his band Sing Street starts out by doing covers of popular songs during that time such as Rio by Duran Duran. Brendan thinks they stink and gives the "Rock n Roll is a risk" speech to convince him to drop covers and develop an original style.
  • Dedication: The film is dedicated "For brothers everywhere".
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Barry says 'queer' and 'faggot' a lot in casual conversation, and Darren refers to Ngig as a "gollywog" - though the latter does get a disapproving response from Conor.
    • None of the staff intervene with the rampant bullying that goes on in the schoolyard. Not to mention that Brother Baxter is able to get away with all sorts of abuse; clergy were the law in Ireland and it wasn't until the 90s that their influence finally waned.
    • Conor's parents aren't able to divorce, as was illegal in Ireland until 1995. What's more is that they are described as only marrying just to be able to sleep together.
  • Dublin Skanger: Barry is presented as a low class scumbag, but played sympathetically due to his abusive father.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Conor's parents fight all the time, the father does nothing but yell, the older brother Brendan has dropped out of college, and Conor himself is bullied at school. That's not to mention that Raphina lives in a home for girls, with her father dead and her mother in a mental hospital.
  • Erudite Stoner: Brendan sits in his room smoking weed most of the day, and plenty of musical-related wisdom comes out.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The movie opens with Conor sitting in his room, strumming a guitar, and quietly singing improvised lyrics taken directly from his parents' loud marital spat.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Conor's hair changes as the film progresses, showing his interest in music.
  • Foreshadowing: Conor's imagination has Raphina showing up to a High-School Dance at the last minute for a big romantic moment. She actually does when they're performing at the disco.
    • The art teacher remarks about all the complicated boys and girls, a line that makes it into Sing Street's final song.
  • Funny Background Event:
    • Rabbits throughout Eamon's house.
    • A random passer-by stealing Conor's bike as he writes songs with Eamon.
    • A student puking as Conor and Raphina leave the dance.
    • Ngig slyly moving his keyboard closer to the centre of the shot during the first music video
  • Going Cold Turkey: Brendan abruptly quits hash, and gets rather irritable as a result.
  • Guy Liner: The band members use this as part of their makeup.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Barry is persuaded to become a roadie for the band.
  • Hollywood Kiss: Averted during Conor and Raphina's first makeout session. She even makes him wait while she swallows a biscuit before going in for more.
  • Hufflepuff House: Brendan and Conor's sister Ann has minimal lines and abruptly vanishes after the parents announce they're splitting up.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: Brendan bemoans how many talents he had in his younger years, only to be set back and ruined by the disastrous family environment he was born into.
  • Imagine Spot: Conor has a lengthy one when shooting the High-School Dance themed video. He imagines Raphina walking into a suddenly crowded dance, his parents happily dancing together, Brother Baxter joins the activities and gives his approval, and Brendan fighting off Evan (while dressed as James Dean).
  • Improbably Cool Car: Played with, or rather used to illustrate the Lalor family's financial decline. Not too long ago they could afford to buy a Mercedes, now they can barely afford to run it and it's under a tarp in the driveway for most of the movie.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Brother Baxter is likely going to remain at his position abusing kids for several more years. But he does get some comeuppance in the form of Conor's song insulting him being performed in front of the entire school.
    • Inverted with Conor's dad. He'll be getting all the architectural commissions he can handle in The Celtic Tiger years, but by then it'll be too late to save his home, his marriage or his original plan for Conor's schooling.
  • Middle Child Syndrome: Ann's purpose seems to be ignored by her family, and even by the narrative itself.
  • Mood Whiplash: A seemingly light-hearted scene of Brother Baxter being exasperated over Conor wearing make-up to school takes a hard U-turn as Brother Baxter attacks Conor, drags him into the bathroom and forcibly washes it off his face.
  • Moment Killer: Lampshaded when after Conor and Raphina's first kiss, he mentions Evan. She playfully says he ruined it.
  • No Ending: The movie ends with Conor and Raphina head out to sea, following the ferry across the rough Irish Sea to a new life in London. Will they make it?
  • Percussive Shutdown: When the school principal attempts to stop the school dance by turning on the lights, Barry smashes the switch to keep it from happening.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Played for Laughs with Darren. When he meets Ngig he speaks slowly, expecting him not to understand English. The boy snarkily responds that he's lived in Dublin most of his life.
  • Red Herring: We're led to believe that Conor's poor exam result will lead to some third act conflict. But then the parents announce they're separating instead.
  • Sadist Teacher: Brother Baxter. Very strict about the black shoe policy and intolerant of students wearing makeup.
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: The tone of the movie gets notably more serious after Conor's parents decide to split.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The video filmed in the school is staged as an homage to Back to the Future.
    • During Conor's fantasy, Brendan comes in dressed like James Dean and has a knife fight with Evan - a nod to Rebel Without a Cause.
    • Sing Street's style and musical direction is greatly influenced by whatever bands Conor and Eamon listened to most recently. For starters, "The Riddle of the Model" sees them imitating Duran Duran, "A Beautiful Sea" carries a heavy The Cure influence, and "Drive It Like You Stole It" follows the lead of Daryl Hall & John Oates.
    • Other artists from the period get references as well. The Village People and Adam Ant get referenced during the first video shoot, Brother Baxtor invokes David Bowie when he says "No more Ziggy Stardust", a slowed-down piano version of "Take On Me" plays at one point, and so on.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: After Raphina returns from her departure with Evan, realising she won't go to London and she has no future, she's changed out of her high-fashion outfits to a modest blue cardigan.
  • Silly Love Song: Up
  • Sleeping Single: The last shot of Conor's parents is of mother in bed, and father in a sleeping bag on the floor.
  • Sucky School: Synge Street School was going through a phase of being one.
  • Take That!: The song "Brown Shoes", which mocks Brother Baxter.
  • Title Drop: Sing Street is the name of the band, taken from the school's name
  • Token Minority: Lampshaded when Darren suggests getting the only black guy in the area in their band. Luckily Ngig plays the keyboard.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: As noted above, Conor's sister Ann vanishes in the third act and doesn't even get name-checked in the finale.
  • Write Who You Know: In-universe. All of Conor's lyrics directly reference what's going on in his life.
  • Younger Than They Look: Raphina is only sixteen, but the way she does her hair, makeup and clothes makes her look several years older so that she'll get more attention for modeling. When Conor bumps into her after she's apparently gone to London, she's not wearing makeup or chic clothes and looks almost younger than sixteen; she even tries to pass herself off as her own younger sister.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Discussed by Brendan in his rant, where he complains that Conor did the exact same things he did, but became a hero - whereas Brendan is a laughing stock.