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Sing Street's songs of youth 

"You've gotta be able to express yourself."

In the musical coming-of-age drama Sing Street, the 14-year-old Cosmo (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, in his film debut) learns about economic depression—it’s Dublin, in 1985—starts a new school where oppression is the governing tactic and discovers new wave, all in the same week. When he falls for an older girl (Lucy Boynton), he does what we all would do: Pretends he’s in a band. Instead of continuing the lie, Cosmo assembles some mates, writes some songs and makes his dreams real. They call themselves Sing Street.

“I hadn’t dived into the ’80s yet,” says Walsh-Peelo, fair for someone born in 1999. His inspirations before the film had been folk, “Joni Mitchell, The Beatles—so many musicians were inspired by the Beatles, it’s what got me to pick up a guitar,” he says from Toronto. Cosmo cycles through many of the hairstyles and eye makeup applications of the day. “He had the goth thing—the Robert Smith Cure thing—and Duran Duran,” says Walsh-Peelo. “I think my favourite was in the final scene at the school when he had sort of the Angus Young rolled-up-sleeve look.”

Sing Street was written and directed by John Carney—whose 2007 drama Once became a sleeper hit, Oscar winner and Broadway musical (yes, there is a Glen Hansard song here too)—and based on his own youth. Like Once, this film finds a way to work in songs organically—scenes of the boys writing, filming videos, playing shows—in amongst a human tale of a boy just trying to figure out who he is. “You’ve gotta be able,” says Walsh-Peelo, “to express yourself.”

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Vol 25, No 47
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