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Cinema Review: Sing Street ****

Michael Cox reviews a film with 'pluck and charm to spare'.

If you really don't know where Sing Street is heading for its conclusion, you either haven't seen many films or aren't paying much attention. Dublin, 1985. The economy is a mess, and ferries are taking desperate Irish people into the promised land of Britain—many who are travelling with little to their names.

In the midst of all this is a young teenage boy. His parents, desperate to make ends meet, have to remove him from his posh school and enrol him at the grubbier Synge Street, where he quickly falls foul of some of the students and staff. In a ploy for individuality, and more importantly to impress a girl he’s fallen for, he decides to form a band.

So far, so cliched. And from a plot point of view, writer/director John Carney manages to connect all the dots one would expect. He found fame with the well-received Once, and he's on familiar ground here by following Irish musicians with hopes of fame and fortune from the city of milk and honey known as London.

But he has two great cards in his hand, and he manages to play both brilliantly. First, the music is terrific. The choice of mid-80s music evokes nostalgia and effectively signposts what's to come. More impressively, the original music by our plucky teenage band is a lot of fun. Perhaps the songs are a little too polished for novice teenagers, but the film manages to sell their plausibility.

It pulls this trick off through its parade of likeable characters. Ferdia Walsh-Peelo is terrific as lead character Cosmo. He's easy to root for and empathise with, and his ‘deer caught in headlights’ look at the beginning makes him an earnest hero. But it's the relationships he has that proves to be the film’s great strength, those both in the band and at home. Cosmo’s world is peopled by people we equally care about: his parents, his mentor-serving brother, his band mates and the girl he’s fallen for who serves as muse and as a model in the band’s videos (of which come some of the film’s most charming moments).

It would be easy to criticise the film for its paint-by-numbers plot, but when the music is this good and the cast are this great, screaming about predictability is beyond the point. Sing Street has pluck and charm to spare, and it plays out with a terrific sense of humour that gleefully sees us to the final moment—even if there is little doubt where that final destination is going to be.

Reviewed as part of this year's Glasgow Film Festival.

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