Back in 2006 John Carney gifted us the super romantic Once. The film went on to win an Oscar for best song and turned people (read: me) into weepy romantics with its winningly moving tone. Eight years later Carney is back with Begin Again which, surprisingly, is also brilliant despite Carney jumping from his indie roots to the mainstream space.
Begin Again follows the same structure of Once where two broken people meet over music and develop a strong bond, unsure of whether it’s love or infatuation, or sheer coincidence. In this case Mark Ruffalo is superbly cast as a drunken, divorced, down and out formerly famous music producer who gets fired from his job, and meets the ultimate musician and ticket to recovery in the form of Keira Knightley. The two jam over the music they create and tumble into each others’ lives, often reflecting over their pasts. Yes it’s the exact same formula as Once, but it sure as hell is beautifully played out.
This film is gorgeous. It’s pure unadulterated romance. Not manipulative romanticised bullshit like Nicholas Sparks, but real romance. There's also a tinge of dysfunctionality thrown in, and both aspects are fleshed out extremely well. Whether you’re on a date, or watching it with friends, or seeing it alone, Begin Again lifts you up and sways you around. A large credit credit goes to the awesome soundtrack that ranges from bittersweet chords to Arcade Fire style hipster pop-rock. The songs themselves are scattered throughout the film like in a Bollywood movie, but they serve a purpose within the narrative. I’ll leave it to you to discover why the songs were placed in the film, but I can tell you it’s a fun, and a rather hilarious plot device.
The swell writing and direction would not have mattered without the excellent cast. Ruffalo continues to prove his range, and he just disappears into his character – he’s hilarious in the funny scenes, and likable in the tough ones. It’s ballsy of him to not be a movie star and be a character instead. Knightley, who isn’t known much for her acting chops exudes one too many emotions at times but is still pretty good, even relatable. The people in this movie are real, not contrived 'movie people'. It's what makes the film honest and organic. The film also does a good job of not being preachy about relationships, and ends on the most perfect note. Seeing it once is just not enough, so by the time you’re done reading this I’ll already be at the movie theater, ready for the experience to begin again.
(First published in MiD Day)