Film Review: Begin Again

Directed by John Carney, Begin Again follows the encounter of a disgraced music-business executive, Dan (Mark Ruffalo), and a young singer-songwriter, Gretta (Keira Knightley). When Gretta and her long-term boyfriend and song-writing partner, Dave (Adam Levine), break up after recently moving to New York when Dave lands a major label deal, lovelorn Gretta is left to face the city on her own. But her world takes a turn for the better when Dan stumbles upon her performing on an East Village stage and is immediately captivated by her raw talent.

From the director of one of my favourite films, Once, and with the film’s lead star and performer Glen Hansard contributing as one of the songwriters, Begin Again quickly became one of my most anticipated films of this year.

A good soundtrack can make all the difference in a film; a familiar song in a trailer can pique your interest, a great collections of songs used throughout can help you relate better to the film on a whole, but when the film is a soundtrack, there’s something about people making music that feels very personal. Carney obviously had a larger budget this time around, as Once felt a lot more raw in its production, performances, acting, cast, and sets. But Begin Again does not lose its charm because it merely had more money thrown at it; it certainly feels a lot more mainstream with the use of brighter locations and a much more well-known cast list, but many of its indie qualities remain.

In the first few scenes, Carney uses a fantastic technique of repeating its introductory scene of Gretta and Dan’s first meeting from two different perspectives, allowing the audience to get to know its main characters and their background stories very early on. We are therefore interested and invested from the get-go, with rapid character development building up straight away. And then the music kicks in, and we soon realise that we’re going to be treated to not only a stellar cast and a story full of heart and soul, but, most importantly, a soundtrack consisting of well-written songs that are performed beautifully by Keira Knightley.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Knightley’s acting and many of her films are some of my favourites. Her roles in romantic period dramas such as Pride and Prejudice and The Duchess are stunning, her high-profile roles in films including the Pirates of The Caribbean franchise are entertaining, but it’s her roles in more independent dramas and comedies including Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and Last Night that I love. I was excited to see her leading this musical comedy, especially alongside the brilliant Mark Ruffalo, but I was completely blown away by how well she performed most of the songs included.

James Corden, Hailee Steinfeld, and Catherine Keener are fantastic in support, too, and let’s not forget the inclusion of Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine‘s feature film debut, who gives the film a climactic ending performance. The cast feel like one big family and each has their likeable qualities, as you find yourself rooting for certain relationships but not for others. There are some really beautiful scenes between the cast, namely a couple involving a double-ended adapter, and many that you will find yourself smiling over because of the casts’ lovely chemistry and the film’s feel-good nature. There’s just a lot to love about this film, and you’ll find yourself enjoying it more and more as it goes on.

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