Another One for the Pantheon

Everybody Wants Some!! (15) 2016 US 116mins, written and directed by Richard Linklater, Cineworld Brighton, Friday 13th May, 8.20pm.
Sing Street (12A) 2016 IR/UK/US 105mins, written and directed by John Carney, Dukes at Komedia, Sunday 15th May, 11am.

Both these films are about young people. Both are set in the 1980s, both contain a portrait of a developing romance between a boy and a girl, but as far as similarities go, that's about it.

Richard Linklater, these days, is a heavyweight in the world of independent cinema, an Oscar winner, the director of a film which broke through into a major financial hit, School of Rock, and a number of films which have entered the cult film pantheon.

John Carney maybe not so much.

What's the difference?

As much as Sing Street is charming and intermittently funny, John Carney does something which is utterly outdated. He makes the film about how his main character feels. The result is we don't know that much about any of the other characters. They become progressively more grey and indistinct the further away they are, plot-wise, from the boy at the centre.

Richard Linklater has got where he is today by letting the audience into the lives and thoughts of every single character in his films, even the minor characters are interesting and clearly drawn.

His films aren't about how someone feels, but how lots of people interact, how they deal with each other. His big set pieces, the parties, the discussions between characters, are fine achievements. And in this film, the baseball practice is another level altogether. How did he find actors who could also play baseball? Actually play?

Linklater advances the story through conflicts that blow up and then dissipate, but which allow an opportunity to discuss, to work through the issues, in scenes with multiple characters, all having input, a say. The main character, for instance, who is in some ways Linklater himself, has a confrontation with his new room-mate about having the room to himself with a girl. The room-mate, in the room with his friends, is unmovable. The next morning, this same character, having to confront the whole group of housemates, loses his confidence and presents in a totally different light.

Similarly, the plot line which has the coach of the baseball team setting out two house rules which are immediately broken, this strand isn't developed further. It's how the characters interact that matters, not story arcs.

Sing Street's long story arcs seem cliched, without interest. The characters have nothing to say which has relevance beyond themselves.

Richard Linklater, like the Coen Brothers, is interested in the broader ideas. Should you bring yourself to university, or allow yourself to be moulded, to become what they want? How important is competition? Linklater himself started as a sport major but had to change, for health reasons, to performing arts. The developing romance, the sport star with the performing arts girl, about which the boy's friends have the last word, could be seen as Linklater working through his own trajectory.

I could go on, but am out of words. Everybody Wants Some!! is a brilliant film. Go and see it. Sing Street maybe not so much.

Paul Corcoran