Irish charmer is a joyful, musical coming-of-age story
“Sing Street” (2016)
1 hour, 46 minutes
Directed and written by John Carney
“Sing Street” is a fun movie that refreshingly communicates the joyful exuberance of music and starting a band. In the tradition of “The Commitments” and “That Thing You Do!” it translates that youthful verve to the screen for all to share.
Set in Dublin in 1985 (and filmed there), the film is about 15-year-old Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo in his first movie role). Because of money problems, his parents send him to a new school that’s run by the Christian Brothers (although they’re not very Christian) in a rougher part of town. Seeing a pretty girl (Raphina, played by Lucy Boynton) across from school one day, he impulsively strolls up to her, makes conversation and, when she says she’s a model, asks if she wants to be in a music video for his band.
Of course, Conor doesn’t have a band; but, now he has to start one – and fast! (“Do you play an instrument?” made me think of the early Beatles.) And, he’s lucky enough to find Eamon, who is the McCartney to his Lennon when it comes to songwriting.
The ensemble cast, from the teens to the adults, is excellent. And, the musical numbers are catchy and very good. A music video in his imagination, set at an American prom (“Have you seen ‘Back to the Future’?”), is a colorful view of what he sees in his head and could create if given a chance (and a budget).
Conor has an older brother, Brendan, a college dropout, but a very astute guy. He set Conor on this path with Duran Duran’s video for “Rio.” As the family watches the video, their father says, “Well, it’s not The Beatles is it?”
Brendan leads Conor on a musical education from band to band (Duran Duran, A-Ha, M, Joe Jackson, Hall & Oates and more) and offers advice for Conor to attract Raphina. A cool bit is that each song Conor writes is like a mini-homage to whichever band he’s listening to at the moment.
As Conor grows up and gains confidence, he learns to see beyond his own needs and to make decisions for himself.
John Carney clearly remembers what it was like to be a teenager, to want to be cool and meet girls. The former frontman for The Frames also directed “Once,” one of my favorite movies about music.
“Sing Street” was nominated for a Golden Globe for best motion picture - musical or comedy and won second place for Best Irish Film at the Dublin Film Critics Circle Awards. It also won an award from the Atlanta Film Critics Society for Best Song, “Drive It Like You Stole It,” which was stuck in my head (pleasantly) for weeks after I saw the film.
There’s a soundtrack with all the original songs from the film, bands mentioned above and hits by The Cure, Genesis, The Clash, The Blades, Spandau Ballet and more.
You need a quintessentially Irish recipe to go with this film. How about an Irish stew? And, you can make it ahead and reheat it when you want.
Irish Beef Stew with Guinness
from Rachel Ray’s website
This recipe has dark stout in it. The alcohol burns off, but the Guinness adds a delicious depth to the flavor of the stew.
Serves 4 to 6
1 1/4 pounds chuck beef stew meat, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups beef stock
2 cups water
1 cup Guinness extra stout
1 can tomato paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 pounds of baby Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in half
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Flat leaf parsley for garnishing
Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt over the beef pieces. Heat olive oil in a large (6- to 8-quart), heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Pat the meat dry with a paper towel. Add the beef to the pot and cook, without stirring, until the pieces are browned on one side.
Use tongs to turn the pieces over to brown the other side. Work in batches if need be, so you give the meat enough room to brown and not steam.
Add garlic to the pot and sauté with the beef for a few seconds. Add onions and continue to sauté for a minute or so.
Pour in the beer and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Then, add in the beef stock, water, tomato paste, sugar, thyme, Worcestershire sauce and carrots. Stir to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer, and let it simmer for one hour.
After an hour, add the potatoes and simmer for another 40 minutes until the beef is tender and potatoes are cooked through.
Discard the thyme and serve sprinkled with chopped parsley.
The stew can be made up to five days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the fridge. Serve as-is or with a hunk of crusty bread for an extra-hearty meal.
Note: I like fewer potatoes and more carrots, but that’s up to you. You can add other veggies if you want, such as parsnips or celery.
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