There was something truly magical about Once, and the writer-director (John Carney) who gave us that musical love letter is back with Begin Again, a love letter to music.
Mark Ruffalo plays Dan, a washed-up music exec who is being pushed out of the company he founded. He's a divorced, single father whose triumphs appear to all be behind him. He is the definition of falling towards rock bottom and then…
One night he happens in to a local New York City watering hole and hears an angel.
Keira Knightley is Greta, a singer-songwriter who traveled to New York City from her native London with her boyfriend (Adam Levine in a stunning movie debut -- speaking of, check out our 23 best musician movie moments!) to pursue a career in the music business.
Levine’s Dave finds immediate success and Greta gets left behind as fame and fortune and all that accompanies it engulf her former lover.
That fateful night that Knightley is singing in that bar, well, she was coaxed onto the stage by a friend and it changed everything -- for all of our characters.
It takes some doing, but Ruffalo convinces her that she truly has something special. She is a singer-songwriter the likes of which we haven’t seen in a decade, and through the songs we hear her perform, he is dead-on. That’s the thing about Begin Again, like Once, the soundtrack is sublime. It is a must have, and we mean immediately.
There is also a touching subplot where Ruffalo tries to re-connect with his ex-wife (Catherine Keener) and his teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld). Everything this movie does works, and on many levels.
Begin Again touches your heart while it enlightens your ears and mind. You would be hard-pressed to find a better movie about musicians than this one and it will stick with you long after the final credits roll.
As much as Begin Again makes us believe in the music industry again (what with all those manufactured pop stars ruling the charts), it also is simultaneously one life-affirming tale as well. Like a comedy that makes you laugh out loud, Begin Again causes you to grin profusely, so much so that your cheeks may hurt by its conclusion.
Also what is so fantastic about writer-director Carney’s film is that it never takes the safe or predictable route. It is engrained in a reality that we wish more films would embody. Just when you think you know where the story will go, it turns in another -- even more beautiful -- direction.
One last thing our Begin Again review has to point out is the title is perfect. The film was originally called Can a Song Save Your Life? That is a fitting title, but given what all of the characters go through on this melodic journey, the title Begin Again reflects that hopeful belief that in this life, we all can have a chance at redemption and a life worthy of our promise.