John Carney has masterminded some delicate stories and inventive musical pieces that have shot songs into our hearts, coating us with a balance of heart and despair. Working through our emotional cores through the power of song, Carney is one of Ireland’s best directors whose work with Once sent us on a soul-searching journey that has since taken to the West End and Broadway. Returning a couple of years ago with Begin Again, it was tricky to decide whether he’d capture the same magic as Once.
Instead, he created a new film filled with honesty, openness, and tunes.
Begin Again revolves around music producer Dan and singer/song-writer Gretta who meet at the worst time in their lives. The former is an alcoholic, estranged from his family, fired from his job, and all prepared to kill himself. That is until he comes across the latter singing in a lowly pub. Gretta has just found out her boyfriend, now a famous rock star, has been cheating on her and fallen in love with someone else. When a chance meeting inspires the pair of them to produce a record together, they find a connection within the music and a chance to…begin again…
A movie that you’ll fall in love with despite rolling your shoulders so much at the premise and cast list. That being said, Begin Again is an endearing note. Though a little saccrine sweeter than Once, and therefore missing a step from the masterful iconic film, Begin Again still draws on the poignancy the two lead characters and the wholesome musical. The story is somewhat idealistic but brimming with sublime emotional arcs and a wondrous soulful journey paved by our characters and their inspiration for the music. There’s also some excellent points about the music industry (some cutting ones too) that allow this movie not to stray too far from realism.
The small cast helmed by Kiera Knightly and Mark Ruffalo really help find Begin Again’s identity. Despite the big names, Carney still crafts this independent spirit defiantly. As Dan and Gretta, Ruffalo and Knightley explore the salvation of music as both producer and singer, using the art to work through the problems that vex them. Knightly and Ruffalo are definitely the “lost” stars of the show but it is populate by incredible talents such as Adam Levine, James Cordon, and Hailee Steinfield who embrace the energy of the film and delicate excavate the aching, longing, and the journey one must go down – all together
Begin Again is about redemption and finding a home, not just in the adoptive city you moved to, but in the people you meet. It’s about recovery after pain and how beauty can come from suffering. Utilising the character of New York with this vibrant musical whimsy, the real crux of the tale is how Gretta and Dan help one another after each feels loss and abandoned. Having them not develop into the typical love story really hones the film in and sees humanity in its finest, propelling each other to discover the happiness they deserve with this beautiful acoustic soundtrack, brimming with the summer in the Big Apple.
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