Director: John Carney
Screenwriter: John Carney
Cast: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, James Corden, Catherine Keener, Mos Def, CeeLo Greene
Runtime: 1 Hour 44 Minutes
Rating: R for language
Studio: The Weinstein Company
After Credits Scene? No
“Begin Again” is the new film by director John Carney (director of the 2006 film, “Once”). It follows Gretta (Keira Knightley), a singer/songwriter who bumps into a studio executive, Dan (Mark Ruffalo). Both are down in the dumps in their lives and decide to work together to independently create an album with the limited resources they have.
I knew very little about the movie when I saw it several months ago back when it was under the title, “Can A Song Save Your Life?” I had only heard of the insane buzz the film had received back at the Toronto International Film Festival last year. It was quite similar to my experience seeing “Silver Linings Playbook” a few years ago, which ended up being my favorite film of that year.
Let me just get straight to the point. This movie is friggen’ brilliant! From the charismatic performances of the actors to the consistently charming tone, “Begin Again” is one of the most lively, energetic, and sincere films I’ve seen in a very long time.
Now the film was already facing an uphill battle when I went to go see it because it was shortly after I had seen another wonderful movie about music, “Inside Llewyn Davis.” I constantly had the songs from that movie playing in my head over and over again long after having seen it. Yet somehow, the songs in “Begin Again” managed to stick with me more. It’s not just that these songs are so catchy and full of energy, but rather that all of them have a resonating quality to them that connects to the audience, even when they’re at their most brutally honest.
These songs are also anchored by the film’s wonderful ensemble. Keira Knightley leads this film with an inescapable charm and raw emotion, giving one of the best performances of the year so far. She also has an incredible singing voice as well. Mark Ruffalo offers up a perfect balance to the film with his equally damaged character. Ruffalo’s Dan has just enough similarities and differences to Knightley’s Gretta to offer up a brilliant duo. And best of all . . . no stupid romantic comedy cliches are to be found.
Adam Levine was the one actor that I had worries about. Considering that he’s a singer first and foremost, I was worried that he wouldn’t have the acting chops to work alongside this talented group of actors. Thankfully, those worries were diminished quickly as his performance is truly great. For someone who doesn’t have acting experience, this role seemed perfectly suited for him and he knocks it out of the park. Some might say that all he does is just play himself, but he comes off as genuine and real during the film’s most dramatic moments. I’m really curious to see how he branches out after this.
I was completely blown away by the direction by John Carney. For a film so small and intimate, he does a remarkable job with the construction of the story right from the first act of the film where he uses flashbacks in a really unique and fresh way. It was a fantastic way to suck in the viewer into this world that he set up.
Guys, I can’t emphasize this enough. “Begin Again” is one of the most special and lively films I’ve seen so far this year. Besides maybe “The LEGO Movie,” I can’t think of another film this year that made me smile as much as this one did. From the spectacular soundtrack, terrific performances, and brilliant structure, this is a movie that should not be missed. Make sure you see it as soon as you can.
Overall, I give “Begin Again” a perfect A+.
What do you guys think of “Begin Again?” Are you excited to see it? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Comment down below with your thoughts.
“Begin Again” opens in limited release this Friday and expands nationwide on July 2, 2014.
Thank you guys so much for reading and, as always, “Follow the Screen, Scene X Scene!”