teens

The must-watch Netflix movie for any mum who has a kid entering high school this year.

If your kid isn’t declaring, “I’m not watching that movie, it’s rated PG and that’s for babies”, how do you even know you’re the parent of a tween?

As my son grows up – he’s 11.5 now – it’s getting trickier to navigate the content he consumes. Especially when it comes to movies and television, (YouTube is a lost cause) I want his entertainment to educate, and make him think about the world around him because his mind is ripe – but if you ask him, he’s not interested in any of that. He wants to watch stuff that ‘grown ups’ watch – but it had better not be constructive in any way!

So, I have to present stuff I think would be great, in the sneakiest possible way – to make my kid think that they’re his idea – and not something I’m making him watch.

Because, you know, God forbid I make him do something.

This is why when I recently came across the 2016 Irish film Sing Street, which Netflix is featuring, I simply added it to the list on my kid’s account – so he would think it was his idea.

Being about a teenage boy named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) who tries to impress a girl named Raphina (Lucy Boynton) by starting a band, I knew the premise would appeal to my rock’n’roll-crazy kid.

But I also did a quick search on the flick, and discovered it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival (a sign that it was a thinking movie)…and it was set in the 1980s, in Ireland – which I thought would expand his world a bit.

And, yes I’ll admit, I thought the soundtrack would be smothered in my favourite band, U2. So yeah, that was my ulterior motive.

So, on Saturday night, as I ‘let’ my son choose a movie, and he selected Sing Street from his account, I smiled a smug smile to myself and settled in for some music nostalgia, and a sweet coming of age plot.

I did get both of those things from the next couple of hours – and a whole lot more than I had bargained for.

Basically, Conor’s parents’ marriage is crumbling, the family hits financial dire straits, and Conor is forced to leave his expensive school and attend a different, non-fee paying one. There, he’s bullied by another kid, and by one of the Catholic priests.

Sounds a bit crappy, right? But.

Conor is one of the most inspirational teen characters I’ve ever seen on screen. Nothing, and I mean nothing, gets this kid down permanently.

Watch the Sing Street trailer here:

He’s smart. He’s resilient. He takes a beating,  but gets back up, determined with a plan for the next time, and determined that other people won’t stand in the way of what he wants: to write songs for his band, and of course, to get the girl.

Conor doesn’t mind being different – in fact, he embraces it. Throughout the film, he reinvents his look several times as he works out who he is – and makes no apologies for any version of himself. Conor backs himself time and time again.

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Put it this way – he’s no naval-gazing Dawson from Dawson’s Creek. Conor is a pleasure to watch, and as a parent, I was thrilled my kid was seeing such an excellent role model demonstrating grit, and the rare ability to dance in the rain.

And yes, my son loved it, too. He was inspired. He thought Conor was “awesome”. He wanted to start his own band immediately.

The other important thing the movie introduced my kid to was a wider 80s soundtrack. The movie is woefully bereft of any U2 music – which defied my expectations. But there was The Cure, Duran Duran, and one of the most beautiful original ballads I’ve ever heard in a film.

One small negative I will warn you about – which borders slightly on a spoiler – is that you will need to speak to your kid about the ending, because it’s a little incongruous with the rest of the film. The director, John Carney, even said he regrets it a little, because it’s supposed to represent a fantasy – but many viewers have taken it literally.

It’s not a huge deal, but it’s definitely a situation of there’s some parental guidance being needed at the end – because your teen will have some questions.

Before they run off to start their own band, that is.

If you’d like to hear more from Nama Winston, see her stories here, and subscribe to her weekly Mamamia Parents newsletter here.

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