Starring: Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, James Corden
Director: John Carney
Running Time: 104 mins
Begin Again is an American film about a disgraced music manager who unexpectedly comes across a young English woman whose music convinces him to work with her on an unorthodox album.
This is written and directed by John Carney, the man who made the surprise musical indie hit Once. I wasn’t too keen on that film, but I can certainly say that Begin Again is a significant step up. Taking from the unique qualities of Once, Begin Again is a heartfelt, funny, engrossing and uplifting musical experience that’s an absolute joy to watch from start to finish.
I’ll start with what I think is the reason that this is so much better than Once. My biggest qualm with that film was the way that the songs overcrowded the film. They went on too long, didn’t add enough to the story, and, unless you’re a proper music aficionado, weren’t too great to listen to for upwards of four minutes.
However, with Begin Again, you get a four of five great songs that add a lot more energy to the film, are entertaining to listen to, and most importantly play a vital role in the story. Once was about a romance that unfolded around music, but Begin Again tells a story that stays strong with the music at the centre, and then allows the plot to grow around it.
So, the soundtrack here was pretty fantastic, and special credit has to go to the songwriters and singers (including Keira Knightely herself) for putting together a fantastically enjoyable musical experience.
But the music is just the start of why this film is so good. Originating from their decision to collaborate on an album, the two lead characters’ relationships with each other as well as other people was absolutely fascinating to follow. There’s no sense of awkward romance thrown in like Hollywood would often mistakenly do, and what you get is a very tender film that tells the story of some very believable and heartfelt human relationships. Whether they turn out good or bad isn’t certain, but what is is that you’re completely engrossed in the road that all the characters take.
And that’s what’s really impressive about the songs, that they continue the story and add an extra level of emotion. They’re a lot of fun to listen to, which is a bonus, but unlike normal musicals where songs cause an awkward break in the pace of a movie, this film naturally weaves in and out of its musical numbers, making them a key part of the story and the characters’ development.
Finally, the performances here are great too. Keira Knightley is good in the lead role, and her impressive singing was a nice surprise, but Mark Ruffalo was the real stand-out for me. In what is probably one of his best roles of all, he makes his character an effortlessly likeable presence despite his situation at the beginning of the movie, and so you get a fantastically warm sense of success when he and the young woman do come together to make some music, making this film just that little bit more special.
Overall, I was really surprised with this film. A significant improvement on Once, John Carney has made a beautifully natural and entertaining musical with an engrossing story about its characters and the music, whilst the performances were impressive too, so that’s why I’m giving Begin Again an 8.0.