13th Nov2014

‘Begin Again’ DVD Review

by Paul Metcalf

Stars: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, James Corden, Hailee Steinfeld, Mos Def, Catherine Keener, Mary Catherine Garrison, Marco Assante | Written and Directed by John Carney


When I started to watch Begin Again my initial thoughts were of déjà vu.  Seemingly following the same style of plot similar to Not Another Happy Ending I expected Mark Ruffalo’s music producer to fall in love with Keira Knightley’s aspiring musician.  Happily though I found that assumptions can often be wrong.

When Dan (Mark Ruffalo) loses his position at the record label he helped form it looks like he’s finally lost everything.  Spending the day getting drunk, he ends up at a small bar where he discovers Gretta (Keira Knighley) performing one of her songs at an open-mic night.  Captivated by her talent he offers to help her become a star, triggering a change not only in her life but his too.

The story for Begin Again is simple, and the film could have been too.  The difference though is that John Carney doesn’t take the obvious path here, but he concentrates on the organic feel that creating music can have, and similarly the way that life can be too.  The characters of Dan and Gretta need something in their life to provide a change for the better, to Begin Again you could say, and is something that they have in common as their saving grace.

What makes Begin Again stand out from being just another love story is the way John Carney makes the film feel more intimate to the characters, instead of being distracted by the outside world he concentrates on Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley and fleshes out the characters they create so that we fully empathise with them.  That’s not to say that New York is not important to the film.  If anything the city becomes a living breathing canvas on which they create their musical art.  When this work is done, the pieces form the answer to what they both need in their lives.

To make a film like this the actors have to be up to the task and Carney has selected an ensemble that are more definitely skilful enough for what is asked of them.  This surprisingly includes James Corden who plays the enthusiastic friend who provides support.  Mark Ruffalo for me is the stands out actor though as he puts an intensity into the character of Dan and gives a realistic performance, adapting his performance based on the evolution that Dan is going through.  He puts so much energy into the performance that it’s hard not to like him and hope he succeeds.  Knightley’s performance is also good as the love-sick musician who only just had her heart-broken by her boyfriend Dave (Played by Adam Levine) and pines for his attention.  It’s admirable that while this is perfect for a love story, John Carney focuses on the catalyst for change that they are to each other’s lives instead and love comes second, if at all.

I think it is fair to say that Begin Again is a musical and to like the movie you do really have to have a love of music and be ready for lots of it in the film.  Keira Knightley performs quite a few songs and they are used to convey the emotions the characters are going through, and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine also sings of course, they have him in the movie he might as well do what he’s known for.  Begin Again is romantic, and it is about love but also much more about that.  It’s about music and life, and if love comes out of that then it’s a nice added bonus.

**** 4/5

Begin Again is available now on DVD.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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