In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
This is the mid eighties and everybody is moving to the beat of Pop music as the brand-new concept of music videos appears on television for the first time. On the other hand, in Dublin, Conor, a teenager with a sensitive heart, is trying to deal with a tense family relationship, reconnect with his older brother, and deal with the hostile environment of his new public school - but then, one day, he sees her - tall, with long chestnut hair, a buttery complexion and big, blue eyes - an enigmatically beautiful girl standing in front of the gate of his school indolently observing people passing by. Who is she and how could a boy ever get noticed by such a distant girl? Easy. He would form a band. With every lyric Conor writes, the gap narrows, and with every song he plays, her heart fills with affection. In a sea of opportunities ahead of them, what does the future hold for a love like this? Written by
The Lalor family watches Duran Duran's video for "Rio" - Duran Duran: Rio - on Top of the Pops. Brendan claims it could go either way as to whether or not they succeed; however, the song was released in 1982 and the film takes place in 1985, by which time Duran Duran was already an extremely successful band and a household name. See more »
I think she's this amazing human being. Never seen anyone like her. The way she talks and looks. She wears these sunglasses, and when she takes them off, her eyes... are like the clouds clearing to let pass the moon.
Sometimes I just wanna cry lookin' at her.
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One of the disclaimers in the closing credits: "This is a period film. Synge Street School, like much of Ireland, was a very different place in the 1980's [sic] than it is now. Today Synge Street School is a progressive, multi-cultural school with an excellent academic record and a committed staff of teachers." See more »
Ah, the joy and pain of first love! Young Conor (aka Cosmo, played in his impressive debut by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) has the smelly end of a shitty stick to deal with while growing up in 1980's Dublin. He has warring parents with the need for financial reasons - to move Conor from his posh school to 'Singe Street' Catholic school: a decidedly rougher and tougher place, ruled over with a rod of iron by Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley). This is a place of chaos and mayhem, ruled over by bullies of the likes of Barry (a superbly intimidating Ian Kenny).
The 15 year old Conor tries punching above his weight with the lovely 16 year old Raphina (Lucy Boynton) a struggling wannabe model with "mysterious eyes" who hangs around outside the Woman's Refuge opposite the school. To get her number, he claims to head up a band and to need her help with the band's video. One small problem: there is no band and Conor has limited musical ability! He gathers around him a motley crew of friends, and with the help of his stoner brother (Jack Raynor) and his extensive vinyl collection, goes about creating a band to gain fame and fortune (or at least the girl).
This is a film that works on so many levels. As a piece of nostalgia for us older folks, the sights and sounds of the 80's are brought vividly back to life, with a rocking soundtrack of the likes of Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet to enjoy. And as a coming of age movie, the long lingering looks, embarrassment and discomfort of first-dating is both touching and painful to watch, with the best Rich-Tea fuelled snog ever put on screen! Few films in fact have come this close to depicting this glorious ineptitude since John Gordon Sinclair and Dee Hepburn struggled to get together in Bill Forsyth's "Gregory's Girl" (making me feel ancient, this was actually set in 1981!).
It should be noted that at one point the film also models the casual racism prevalent at the time, with perhaps only the addition of a rebuking "You can't say things like that" striking a less realistic note.
This is a film where nearly everyone is damaged in one way or another drugs; hopeless ambition; child abuse; paedophilia, alcoholism; bullying; (the list goes on). However, the hugely intelligent script by writer and director John Carney drips the issues out in such tiny insinuations and snippets of conversation that it feels lifelike: not as if the film-maker is beating you over the head with it. This is just a poor Dublin life in the 80's: get on with it.
All of this might make you think this is a hugely depressing, kitchen-sink type of drama that will leave you, at the end of the evening, in dire need of a box-set of "Father Ted" to cheer you up. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the same way as the music in Alan Parker's 1991 Dublin-set classic "The Commitments" - and indeed 2013's excellent Belfast-based "Good Vibrations" - lifted the spirits, so the drive and energy of the soundtrack makes the film a hugely uplifting experience. Besides the classic 80's stuff there are some really great original songs (co-written by the multi- talented John Carney, with Gary Clark): I was still humming "Drive It Like You Stole It" in the car park.
The young cast throw themselves into the job with great energy, with Walsh-Peelo and Boynton delivering touching and impressive performances and Mark McKenna particularly worthy of note channeling a young John Lennon. My top acting accolade though goes to Jack Raynor (who was until recently rumoured to be in the running for the role of the young Han Solo: a role that's now just gone to "Hail Caesar's" Alden Ehrenreich). Playing Conor's older and wiser brother, his frustration at his role in life boils over in a vinyl- smashing and hugely impressive rant that I would like to see credited with a Best Supporting Actor award. And amid all of the teenage love and band efforts, it is this aspect of brotherly love that eventually shines out as the beating heart of the film.
The film is a little rough at the edges a dream sequence looks like it could have had a few more dollars thrown at it - but this often adds to the charm. John Carney seems to have quite an Indie following, but I'm not familiar with his other work. This film left me wanting to dig into his archives. It left my wife gushing with tears from beginning to end! A must see film.
(I loved it - did you? Please visit http://bob-the-movie-man.com for the graphical version of this review and to provide any feedback in the comments section.)
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