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11th Jul 2014

REVIEW – Begin Again, So Incredibly Charming We Dare You Not To Like It

It's definitely one of our picks of the year.

Sue Murphy

John Carney’s Once burst on to the scene in 2007 and when we say the scene, we mean the all-important international scene. Of course, Once was respected at home, why wouldn’t it be? It was a completely honest depiction of a wonderful love story in our beautiful capital, filled with that city’s flaws and full of tortured and unrequited emotions. However, it proved to be the little film that could. Made on the shoestring budget of just €160,000, Once blew all the critics away and it wasn’t just for those performances, it was for the music, that beautiful soundtrack that simply broke our hearts.

With Once, John Carney proved that not only could he make an amazing love story with a killer soundtrack but he understood the concept of life on the edge, the idea of people who have lost everything they have only to end up with each other and with that, a relationship that won’t really work but they continue to hold on for dear life. This idea of loss, sorrow and regret carries through to his latest project, in fact it’s amplified. Although Carney has worked on different projects for the last few years, his forte is certainly music and its connection with people. Begin Again certainly proves that.

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The film revolves around Greta, the girlfriend of Dave (Adam Levine), a singer-songwriter who is on the verge of hitting the big time. Greta leaves her home in the UK in order to accompany Dave in this new venture in his life. However, after a brief stint on the road, Dave becomes involved with his assistant and Greta is forced to leave. Keeping her own talent to herself so Dave may take the limelight, Greta bumps into a music producer who thinks that she has an obvious and raw future in music.

The music producer in question is Dan (Ruffalo) whose life hasn’t gone exactly the way that he imagined it to go. Co-owning a label with his best friend, Dan has often put his career first, forgetting about the wife that still loves him and not paying a lot of attention to his daughter. However, that all changes when he meets Greta.

Begin Again is a music lover’s dream. Dropping all the drama and promotion that goes along with creating a new album these days, the film instead focuses on how music can be free, recording tracks on rooftops, on corners or in various train stations. Carney seems to be firmly about the music and how re-discovering their love for it brings Greta and Dan back to themselves.

The performances are simply brilliant, Ruffalo is thoroughly adorable as a man who just seems to have lost control over his life but remains an absolute gentleman throughout. Knightley has an amazing voice and really evokes pity after her discovery that Dave has been cheating on her. However, the real stand out performance here is Hailee Steinfeld who is the perfect confused teenager who is just trying to figure out who she is in life.

It would be very difficult to not like Begin Again, it’s just effortlessly charming and is Carney’s best work since Once. In fact, he should consider this as the second part of his music trilogy and we can’t wait for the third part.