Director: John Carney
Cast: Kiera Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, James Corden, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener
Music as a medium of expression can never be underrated. Be it love, infatuation, indifference, scorn, or even anger, you can arrange it all on a staff, throw in words and voila, you have an outlet for your deepest feelings. Begin Again is one such film that arranges many emotions, strung together by fairly realistic happenings.
Greta (Kiera Knightley) and Dave (Maroon 5’s Adam Levine) have just arrived in New York. While Dave is on his way to becoming a sell-out rockstar, singer-songwriter girlfriend Greta quickly becomes victim to Dave’s off-key romance with a colleague. The fiercely independent, and freshly heartbroken Greta is left alone in New York City and takes solace in the company of friend Steve (James Corden), also a musician. At a rather downbeat performance in a local bar, Greta’s city song A Step you Can't Take Back touches the heartstrings of just out-of-job, beaten music producer, Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo). Through a smartly edited revisit of the performance, we find out what Dan heard and felt in Greta’s song and is convinced she could be the next best artist he’d sign and bring his life back on track. Well, Dan’s music label partner thinks otherwise and Greta and Dan set out to record an outdoor album with a bunch of musician friends. Here begins a beautiful journey of two lost souls coming together, to decode a language only they both understand.
The chemistry between the gamine Knightley and the easily amused Ruffalo is charming, so is director Carney’s witty writing and realistic showcase of life in an urban setting. An understated subplot involving Dan’s wife Miriam (Catherine Keener) and teenage daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld of True Grit fame) seems central to Dan’s current state of ramshackle existence. Witty references to Jerry Maguire, Jodie Foster’s character in Taxi Driver and the Jackson 5 are sure to make you chuckle. Metaphors like the splitter cable (just like the music) are weaved smartly into the storyline to show how lives of characters are intertwined. The most mundane scenes tug at heartstrings only because the song that plays in it. You can’t help but fall in love with these, slightly idealistic, yet very real people.
For a film like Begin Again, the music will always be the real hero. Knightley is surprisingly good as a singer, and singer Levine is pretty fine as an actor. Ruffalo breathes life into the film that could have easily bordered on sappy and boring. His mere presence brings joy.
Not having watched Once, director Carney widely accepted love tribute to Ireland, but listened to its OST, this reviewer felt drawn into the world he creates in NYC for Begin Again, no comparisons whatsoever. Give this one a chance to strike the right chord.
Watch the trailer here: