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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Sing Street is a winning, thoughtful musical drama from the director of Once that celebrates creativity. There's some edgy content: Characters swear (mainly "s--t," plus a homosexual slur and some other rough words) and smoke (both cigarettes and pot), and there are some disturbing scenes of teen bullying. A marriage falls apart in front of the family's children; there's also some sex talk, and a mom is shown turning on a sex toy. And adults/authority figures aren't always shown in a positive light, but that helps make the movie what it is: a rallying cry to be bold, take chances, and make mistakes on the way to self-expression. It's steeped in music and will likely make adults who watch it with their teens nostalgic for the 1980s -- and motivated to help their kids discover classic acts.
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What's the story?
In SING STREET, life as he knows it is about to change for Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a 15-year-old Irish teen living in 1980s Dublin with a stoner older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), a studious sister, and parents who can no longer contain their disdain for each other. The economy is in dire straits, and neither Mom nor Dad has a job that can sustain the family's upper-middle class lifestyle. So Conor is transferred to a rough-and-tumble school run by the Christian Brothers, where a walk through the courtyard can mean a punch to the head (among many other physical, visual, and verbal assaults) and where there's a foreboding sense of end-of-the-road. Thank heavens for music, to which Conor escapes regularly with his guitar and songs -- aided in part by Brendan, who has dropped out of school and has no idea what to do next besides inspire his younger sibling to dream bigger and do better. When Conor meets Raphina (Lucy Boynton) -- a girl a year older than he his (though she seems much more) who declares she's a model -- Conor decides to form a band and make a music video so she can be in it. Meeting kindred musical spirits sends Conor off on a journey he hadn't anticipated but is surely the right road for him.
Is it any good?
Few films are truly perfect, but this one comes pretty close. A clear labor of love from John Carney, the filmmaker who brought us Once and Begin Again (two films in which music plays a key role in the protagonists' turnaround), Sing Street is a coming-of-age film that doesn't stick to the usual cliches but instead taps into a teen's genuine yearning for experience, wisdom, and transcendence. And it does so while making significant observations about marriage, religious dogma, education, and the economy -- all institutions on which we rely and which can either fail us or teach us at crucial moments.
Movies that pay homage to other creative endeavors -- in this case, 1980s music -- often come up short because the versions they replicate pale in comparison to the originals. But in this case, as with Carney's other films, the songs are clever, catchy, original, and nostalgic all at once. Bravo!
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Conor's journey in Sing Street -- both musical and emotional. How does music help him grow and change? What role does it play in his life?
How is the subject of bullying handled? Is it relatable? What's the best way for teens to respond to bullies?
How does the movie handle the subject of failing marriages, especially in how they can affect children? Have you/anyone you know gone through something similar?
How is substance use portrayed in the movie? Is it casual? Glamorized?
- In theaters: April 15, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: July 26, 2016
- Cast: Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo
- Director: John Carney
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Character Strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 106 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic elements including strong language and some bullying behavior, a suggestive image, drug material and teen smoking
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Seal
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