Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is a fifteen year old living with his Ma and Da (Maria Doyle Kennedy) – (Aidan Gillen) and slacker big brother “Brendan” (Jack Reynor) in Dublin the 1980’s.

The family are struggling financially and Ma and Da are not getting on well, arguments are the background soundtrack to the boy’s daily life.

Conor and Brendan love music, they watch “Top of the Pops”, Conor glimpses a world he would like to be part of. “Duran, Duran” music videos feeding his desire to “do” something.

Moving to a new “Christian Brothers” school, Conor is bullied and his life takes a turn for the worse. With Conor’s dreams barely started and Brendan’s already faded, they retreat and hide within their music.

One day as he leaves school, Conor meets a glamorous young “model” called “Raphina” (Lucy Boynton). To impress the new beautiful girl on the corner, he asks if she wants to be in a music video for his band.

Once accepted, couple of slight problems, he has no band and certainly no planned video.

Fortunately a motley crew is gradually put together and the band starts to meet and cycle through the costumes and music styles of the time. “The Cure”, “Joe Jackson”, “Hall and Oates”, “Spandau Ballet”, “The Jam” to name a few.

Director John Carney has managed to capture lightning in a bottle before, his début Once was hugely popular and influential. This movie manages to sketch out what it is to be young and desperate to work out who you really are, trying on different persona’s to see if they fit.

Conor’s desire to start a band and get the girl is perhaps universal, what helps the film is the level of reality, dry Irish humour and a sense of fun evident in every frame. The kids look like they are truly enjoying themselves as they bash out a tune.

The process of gently teasing a song out of your life experiences is captured, a phrase here, a hook there and suddenly it starts to form. For anyone not involved in creative enterprises, it’s fascinating to watch and listen to how a song might be created.

A few great one liners are given to Brendan, “No woman can truly love a man that listens to Phil Collins”, is one notable Yoda like quote.

The kids are universally good, striking that right balance between professional and amateur that makes the film work. Walsh-Peelo and Reynor get to do the emotional heavy lifting and their sibling relationship is a joy to watch. No soft focus, just what brothers are to each other, always there for good and bad.

Boynton brings a higher level of acting ability and excels in moments without the 80’s make up, someone still adrift and with darker trials behind her hinted at in the screenplay.

Overall this is fun and for teenagers of the 80’s a fantastic nostalgia trip but more than that, an exaggerated encapsulation of what growing up feels like. Tentative steps into the real world, mistakes aplenty but growing more certain with each foot forward.

Adam Levine who also acted in Carney’s previous movie, Begin Again provides the closing song to complement the other original and well known tracks in the movie. Carney is also notable in the way he includes music as an integral part of the story, rather than actors bursting into song for no apparent reason.


Recommended and for those in the right age bracket, a must see. If you are not smiling or tapping your foot to the tunes by the end, you are probably dead already.