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dir-scr John Carney
prd Anthony Bregman, John Carney, Kevin Scott Frakes, Christian Grass, Martina Niland, Raj Brinder Singh, Paul Trijbits
with Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Kelly Thornton, Don Wycherley, Mark McKenna, Ian Kenny, Ben Carolan, Percy Chamburuka, Conor Hamilton, Karl Rice
release Ire 17.Mar.16, US 15.Apr.16, UK 20.May.16
The Duran Duran phase:
Walsh-Peelo, Boynton and Carolan
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
From John Carney, writer-director of Once and Begin Again, this is another drama that beautifully weaves music into the fabric of the narrative while subverting the usual trajectory of a romance. It's a finely crafted film with sharp performances that capture such resonant emotions that it's impossible to watch without having a big smile on your face.
In 1985 Dublin, 15-year-old Conor (Walsh-Peelo) is horrified when his feuding parents (Kennedy and Gillen) send him to the local Catholic school due to a financial crunch. Conor idolises his older rocker-stoner brother Brendan (Reynor), while his sister Ann (Thornton) merely watches in bemused detachment. When Conor meets bad girl Raphina (Boynton), he tells her he's in a band to impress her. So now he needs to form one. With new business-minded friend Darren (Carolan), he recruits another songwriter (McKenna) and a few wannabe musicians (Chamburuka, Hamilton and Rice) to create some "futurist" songs.
The music these kids write hilariously echoes the pop tunes of the era, as they seek a distinctive sound and fashion in bands like Duran Duran, The Cure and Spandau Ballet. Their songs reflect their reality, and are seriously catchy, accompanied by their hand-made videos (plus one elaborate fantasy) that cleverly capture both their inner yearning for success and the moods of the time. Meanwhile, Conor's personal journey takes a series of twists and turns that feel strikingly authentic, never falling back on movie cliches.
Walsh-Peelo has terrific presence as Conor, a believable teen trying to act grown-up, watching his parents' marriage fall apart just as he begins to feel the first pangs of attraction himself. His interaction with both Boynton's Raphina and Reynor's Brendan fizzes with subtext, as Conor works out what he wants from life both as a young man and as an artist. All of this is expressed in his songs, including a riotous punk-infused rant at the cruel head-teacher (Wycherley).
Carney shoots this in a style that knowingly blends realism with the heightened silliness of the 1980s, when fashion seemed to shift with hairdos getting bigger and clothing becoming more dramatic by the day. But instead of being gimmicky, these elements offer glimpses into Conor's inner life, revealing his artistic yearnings. He has no idea that his desire to run away to England with Raphina will certainly make his life exponentially more difficult. But that's another story.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S
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© 2016 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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