OTTAWA’S CINEMA FOR INTERNATIONAL AND INDEPENDENT MOVIES

Begin Again

You're only as strong as your next move.

Begin Again sees Irish writer-director John Carney on a larger canvas, revisiting themes from his lo-fi 2006 indie hit Once – chief among them the emotional connectivity of music. Funny and open-hearted, the film charms and serenades with Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Catherine Keener and a cast that also includes Cee Lo Green and Hailee Steinfeld.

Poster art for Begin AgainWith another movie dealing with similar themes and focused on the power of music, can the delicate balance of Once be sustained once you bring in stars like Knightley? In fact, it can: Begin Again is bigger and a little slicker, but its heart is in the same place, and Carney has once again shown that he is brilliant at capturing the delicacy and power of a musical moment.

And while Knightley may be a movie star, when she sings in the movie’s opening scene in a waifish, fragile voice, she is utterly convincing as a songwriter and reluctant performer who needs to be persuaded of her own talent.

That song is heard once in the tentative acoustic performance that Knightley gives it, with chatter from a barroom full of disinterested observers. Then it’s reprised from the point of view of Ruffalo’s character, who hears it in his head in a fuller arrangement and a more confident performance; the reprise, which shows the song gaining in power and passion, is as wonderful a moment as the scene in Once in which Hansard and Irglová collaborated on ‘Falling Slowly.’

Ruffalo’s role is so delicious, and he gives his character such disheveled panache, that the movie sags a bit when it shifts to the Adam Levine storyline for a while. But for the most part Carney strikes a delightful balance between humour and pain, between hurt and healing, between not taking anything too seriously and knowing the truth of a line like, ‘You can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their playlist.’

Sure, it’s easy to be cynical about such earnest sentiment, but there are times when the thing you want most is not a big, important movie but a simple, beautiful story told with sensitivity, warmth, humour and a big heart. For those times, John Carney is playing our tune.

– David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter
 

Another U7 Solutions - Web-based solutions to everyday business problems. solution.