Movie Review: Begin Again

Movie Review: Begin Again

When life gets a second chance

By Mark HadleyWednesday 6 Aug 2014MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Every now and then a quirky tale comes along that you’re almost certain you know the end from the beginning – but you enjoy it anyway. That’s because seeing a life turn around never gets old, and Begin Again is a case in point.

Mark Hadley reviews 'Begin Again'. 
Begin Again stars Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Now You See Me) as Dan, a washed-up record producer circling the drain of his own career. A Google search shows he used to be one of the bright lights of America’s independent music scene and established a New York record label that once nurtured rare talent. But in the last decade he’s failed to reel in anything remotely releasable, his marriage has foundered on the reef of adultery and his life has sunk to the bottom of a bourbon bottle. That is, until providence lends a hand. 

Dan stumbles into a bar just as a well-meaning friend cajoles Greta (Keira Knightly) into playing a song. She’s angry over the end of a long-term relationship. Her boyfriend has been blinded by his own musical success and a microphone is the last thing she wants to see. But when Greta sings Dan is enraptured by her raw emotion, and fills in what her performance lacks with instruments only he can see. At the end of his career he’s come across the hit he’s been waiting a decade to hear. The question is, can a drunk convince a cynical girl to trust his instincts?

You know where this is going, right? Well, to be clear, I thought I did too. But Begin Again benefits from a few twists in its misfit-makes-good storyline that lift it above the genre. To start with, there are a collection of beautiful scenes that once again demonstrate the insight of writer/director John Carney (Once). In Begin Again we recognize music as the medium that regularly connects everything we feel with everything we want to say. As Dan puts it:

“[That’s] what I love the most about music – the most banal moments are invested with real meaning.”

Better than that, though, is Carney’s take on what it means to turn a life around.

Too many Hollywood redemption stories take the hero and heroine to places where they can finally embrace their hearts’ deepest desire. Carney likewise rebuilds both Dan and Greta and brings them to points where they can take hold of what they think they’re longing for. However when they arrive they have the wisdom to realise that being set free to begin again does not mean you have to make the same mistakes twice. Too often we think we’ve left the old life behind, but in fact we’ve just moved into the nicer apartment next door. What we need to do is exit the block and walk in the opposite direction.

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Curiously that’s what the Bible calls true repentance – turning your back on what’s destroying your life and walking in the opposite direction. I’m not worried about making that connection because Begin Again hints that God has a hand in putting Dan on the right path. Drunk and stumbling around a city train, this ruined man is accosted by a well-meaning Christian who suggests God is the answer:

Christian: “I thought there was no hope. I thought there were no answers and then I found God. Sir, have a talk with God.:

Dan: Sure. “I’m going to have a little talk with God. But what if He doesn’t answer?”

But God does as Dan stumbles into that bar, by presenting him with a life-changing opportunity in the form of Greta. And his life does change. Now if that happened to your or me, would we take the hint?


Rating: M
Distributor: Roadshow

Release Date: August 7