John Carney's dramas of musical invention (Once, Begin Again) are delicate undertakings; the same gentleness and naivete that make them adorable can also make them twee. Here he's got the balance just right, delivering a funny and heartfelt tale about a Dublin teen in the mid-80s (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who starts a band to impress an older girl in the neighborhood (Lucy Boynton). Of course, that's the very best reason to start a band, but an unexpected dramatic dividend is the hero's sense of self-discovery as he teaches himself to play an instrument and write songs. (As usual with Carney, the blossoming amateurs immediately produce sophisticated pop tunes.) The hero and his bandmates embrace the look and sound of the foppish New Romantic craze, but this hardly diminishes their achievement, and their flamboyant getups generate plenty of laughs amid the sexual rigidity of their Catholic high school. With Maria Doyle Kennedy and Aidan Gillen.
By J.R. Jones