SING STREET (12A) 106 mins. Stars Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Jack Reynor, Aidan Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Kelly Thornton.

BILLY CONNOLLY said if you want to get a girlfriend join a band - but don't play the banjo.

Scotland's favourite comedian - and avid banjo player - learnt as a young man that the groupies always went for the cool guitar player.

Its good advice in this bittersweet musical from John Carney, the writer-director of Oscar-winning romance Once and Begin Again.

Set in 1980s Dublin, it tells the story of a group of misfits, who hope to find a girlfriend and escape the economic hardships of the era by forming a pop band.

Fifteen-year-old Conor transfers to a boys' school, where he falls foul of resident bully Barry (Ian Kenny), but makes one friend in red-haired outcast Darren (Ben Carolan).

Desperate to catch the eye of a local girl called Raphina (Lucy Boynton), Conor forms a band called Sing Street and ropes in some of the local kids including multi-instrumentalist Eamon (Mark McKenna) and duo Larry (Conor Hamilton) and Garry (Karl Rice).

Buoyed by initial success, Conor and Eamon get their creative juices flowing to pen original songs inspired by The Jam, Spandau Ballet and The Cure.

Life knocks the lads down, but they get back up again, inspiring classmates to rebel against the dictates of their school's disciplinarian headmaster, Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley).

Meanwhile, Conor urgently seeks advice from Brendan about wooing Raphina, whose boyfriend drives around town with Genesis blaring from his stereo.

"No woman can truly love a man who listens to Phil Collins," counsels Brendan.

Sing Street is 106 minutes of fizzing, pop-infused joy that unfolds though the innocent, questioning eyes of sensitive teenager Conor and his brothers in musical arms.

Writer-director Carney conjures lovely scenes like Conor and his siblings dancing around a bedroom to the Hall & Oates classic Maneater, while their parents argue downstairs, or a feel-good dream sequence in a school gymnasium.

Walsh-Peelo anchors the young cast with a performance of touching vulnerability, and his chemistry with on-screen brother Reynor leaves a big lump in the throat.

Ireland need to recruit them for next year's Eurovision.