Connor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is a young lad in Dublin who transfers to a new school and falls for Ann (Kelly Thornton) who lives across the street. He decides to start a band to win her heart, but it quickly grows into much more. Under the guidance of his brother Brendan (Jack Reynor), he develops into quite the musician and begins to dream of bigger things.
At first, this movie left me uneasy. The writing felt a bit odd, the performances came across as uncomfortably awkward, and nothing seemed to gel. But once it hits its groove, this film knocks it out of the park, it’s a rich, vibrant, and warm film that reminds me why John Carney’s debut feature, Once, is so damn charming.
But it’s not all about the music. The film also deals with Connor’s tumultuous home life and the struggles he has trying to become his own little music icon in the oppressive world of religious conservatism at his Catholic school. Either of these could have taken over the film, but instead they appear in just the right doses.
The part of this movie that slays me is Connor’s relationship to his brother, Brendan. His brother is the mentor character, leading him to the right musical influences and telling him when what he is doing is garbage. It’s a brutal honesty, but one built out of respect and love. And yet their relationship is so much more than that.
Brendan is a bum. He took the brunt of his parents failings and made plenty of mistakes. And his brother got to learn from those mistakes because Brendan shielded him from all the crap he had to endure. And Connor gets to flourish for it. That pisses of Brendan. Not because he resents his brother, but because it reminds him of what he might have been if things had been different.
But as the eldest, you take all the hits, make all the risks and then watch your siblings surpass you as they go on to achieve much more than you probably ever will. And you get mad at yourself a lot. And you might lose it a couple of times. But most of all you’re just damn proud that you get to be in this person’s life. That is what it means to be an older brother.
© 2016 James Blake Ewing