Director: John Carney
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley
Back in 2006, John Carney gave us Once, the single most romantic and touching film of the year. The film went on to win an Oscar for best song and turned people into weepy romantics with its deeply moving tone. I never thought Carney would outdo himself because Once set such a high benchmark. Eight years later, Carney is back with Begin Again, and astonishingly, he has managed to produce a film equally brilliant.
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 played by Keira Knightley. The two bond over the music they create and delve into each others’ lives, often reflecting over their pasts. It’s the exact same formula as Once, but it sure as hell is beautifully played out.
To say that this film is gorgeous is an understatement. It’s pure unadulterated romance, with 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 will lift you up and sway you around. The soundtrack itself is quite awesome, ranging 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 assure you it’s a fun, and a rather hilarious plot device.
None of the great writing and direction would have mattered without the excellent cast. Ruffalo continues to prove his range and his ability to just disappear 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, does one too many emotions but is still pretty good, and most importantly, relatable. The film also does a good job of not being too 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 theatre, ready for the experience to begin again.
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