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Having disliked Once and found myself strangely fond of Begin Again, I didn’t know what to expect from Sing Street, a coming-of-age film that looked entirely unappealing to me amidst glowing reviews. And yet, here I am, swept away by John Carney’s filmmaking skills and his ability to make an utter breeze of a musical. Mixing a melange of 80s tunes–Duran Duran, Joe Jackson, M, Hall & Oates, The Cure, etc.–and original songs by composer Gary Clark (working alongside Carney) based on said artists, Carney offers up a delightful glimpse into the lives of a bunch of teens in 1985 Dublin who start up a band all because of one girl.

With as many indulgences and conveniences in plotting and character romances as God Help the Girl, another giddy pop musical of recent years, one could easily find fault in Sing Street, but it’s hard to imagine not falling in love with the characters as much as the music. Thanks to a camera that never stops moving and some of the most charming actors around, Carney delivers a film full of youthful optimism. Subplots about divorce and bullying fall nicely into place in the way that the script focuses on characters who aren’t entire sure of what their place in life is meant to be, a perfect theme to use for a budding band’s forward momentum.

And while there’s not much weight to the moments of drama that punctuate protagonist Cosmo’s (née Conor) journey to get the girl and deal with the downbeat events life throws at him, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo’s performance (and that of those around him) keeps the audience in tune. It’s all about the comic beats that keep Sing Street moving, with quick-witted dialogue being delivered by talented actors–Lucy Boynton and Jack Reynor standing out above the rest in their supporting roles, be they deadpan performers or overly enthusiastic ones.

So what else is there to say? Let Sing Street surprise you like it did me.

Directed by John Carney; starring Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, and Jack Reynor; 106 minutes.

Sing Street is available on Netflix Instant.