A hit on the festival circuit, the much-hyped Sing Street (**) from John Carney, director of the likeable Once and terrible Begin Again, has thoroughly exhausted his “street musical” bag of tricks. Set in Dublin in 1985, the film comes on like an ersatz version of The Commitments, but any charm quickly evaporates courtesy of an increasingly stupid story revolving around a 15-year-old putting together a Duran Duran-inspired pop group to win the affections of the girl he loves. The original music is abysmal, the period details are all over the place and the acting is cringe-worthy.
Departure (****), on the other hand, is a modest but beautifully made and meticulously acted British drama about a mother (Juliet Stevenson) and her teenage son (Alex Lawther) confronting the reality of their fractured family life while packing up their French holiday home for the last time. Reminiscent of Joanna Hogg’s sublime Unrelated, the film is told mostly from Lawther’s point of view as his character, Elliot, works through the intensity of his feelings by forming a crush on a local boy a year or two older than him. But it’s Stevenson who really anchors this, delivering a finely tuned portrait of a middle-aged woman coming to terms with the fact that her marriage was doomed from the start.
On paper, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Journey to the Shore (**) recalls Stevenson’s breakthrough film, Truly Madly Deeply: a grieving wife is reunited with the ghost of her dead husband. But the Japanese director’s spin on this well-worn trope is drawn-out and dull and not nearly as profound as its contemplative mood or Cannes-winning status suggests. Granted, there’s much to admire aesthetically, but the supernatural story of a depressed dentist who recruits his piano teacher wife to help him ascend to the afterlife is fairly uneventful.