“The Irish: All dreams and no plans.”  — An ancient Irish trope

In 1985, when Prince was winning for “Purple Rain” at the American Music Awards and beating out Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the fever of the new rock was just spreading in Ireland.

It’s in Dublin of the ’80s where John Carney’s new musical story “Begin Again” opens. It’s a simple story that comes to us at this difficult time in America, one that tells of Ireland’s most economically distressful time since “The Troubles.” The economy was sinking, and Ireland’s best and brightest were boarding the quickest boat off the isle to seek not fame, but just employment elsewhere in the world.

“But for the teens and millennials there seemed to be no way out. They were too young and too poor. Especially hard hit was Dublin, where jobs were dropping faster than the Irish rain.

There’s a lot of dreaming going on in Carney’s semi-autobiographical coming-of-age memoir. We’re given Conor “Cosmo” (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), a handsome young student who, fueled by American rock videos, dreams of making one of his own.

At home, Conor’s family is falling apart. His working-class parents (Maria Doyle Kennedy and Aidan Gillen “Game of Thrones”) are on the verge of breaking up. The older brother, Brendan (an amazing Jack Reynor), a college drop out who spends the day stoned and bitter, is the smartest in his house, but like his peers, too cynical to dream much.


Money issues force the family to switch Conor out of a Jesuit school and its pricey tuition and into a free Christian Brothers’ school with harsh, almost sadistic priest teachers.

Bullied, abused and ridiculed by priests and street thugs as a pretty boy outsider, Conor finds shelter with other outliers and comes to form a breakout, amateur, futuristic New Wave garage band.

It all happens upon seeing the lovely 16-going-on-25 Raphia (a knock out Lucy Boynton) standing on the stoop of an orphanage for girls. She imagines a career as a model in London.

With the help of a tiny hustler friend, Conor assembles a motley crew (no relation to Motley Crue), costumes them, begs and borrows equipment and puts together a cheap back-alley video starring his new crush, Raphia.

The group “The Futurists” progress, getting better and better, pulling in instrumental friends and, with priestly and family complications, pulling off a high school prom gig that Carney blows up into a fantasy spectacular.

Carney fuels his dreamscape with the sounds of The Cure, a-ha, Daryl Hall & John Oates and Duran Duran — if I got the credits right — which make the film a sure-fire go-to for teens and ‘tweens.


Carney (“Once”) writes and directs with a teen flavor of his own pulled from the alleys and streets of Dublin. His cinematographer, a very non-Irish Yaron Orbach, uses his technique beautifully in making the kids’ own patched-together video look exactly like a patched-together video.

Tiziana Corvisieri, Carney’s costumer, deserves special attention as the wannabe rockers run through a generation of costumes, which of course are terrible, but fun.

“Sing Street” is an above average, feel-good, coming-of-age comedy-drama-musical that will make everyone feel good and is, as Barnum and Bailey used to say, “for kids from l8 to 80.”

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor and author of “Will Work For Food.”

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