Begin Again Review
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In 2007, writer/director John Carney’s musical indie drama Once proved that you don’t need a big budget or an A-list cast to tell a powerful story. Now, with Begin Again, Carney tells another story of love and music—and while the budget may be bigger and the cast more recognizable, it’s every bit as magical.

Begin Again stars Keira Knightley as Gretta, a young singer-songwriter who moves to New York with her musician boyfriend, Dave (Adam Levine), to advance their budding careers. After Dave gets a solo deal and leaves her for a woman from his label, Gretta is ready to pack up and head home. But then she meets Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a troubled record exec who’s just lost his job. After hearing just one song, Dan is convinced that he needs to produce Gretta’s music, so he spends the night convincing her to give New York another chance. Reluctantly, she stays, and the two hit the streets to record a ground-breaking album—one that could turn both of their lives around.

Brilliantly filmed on the street corners and rooftops and in the alleyways of the Big Apple, Begin Again captures the heart and soul of the city in a way that will sometimes take your breath away. It’s more than just a love letter to the healing power of music; it’s also a love letter to the city itself—to its bars, its subway platforms, its grungy little apartments. And though it may tell a simple story, it’s beautiful, it’s charming, and it’s blissfully hopeful.

It’s impossible not to get caught up in the the the film’s irresistible energy. You might be so enchanted, in fact, that you’ll overlook a few other things—like the talented cast. But if you manage to give the cast just a little bit of attention, you might notice that it’s made up of a fitting mix of indie regulars (like Ruffalo and Catherine Keener) and popular artists (like Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, and even Mos Def). And each member of this motley cast steps up to give a notable performance.

Though Knightley can be rather hit-or-miss, she gives Gretta more depth and grit than the usual fluffy romantic lead. Instead, she blends heartbreak and bitterness with a strong, confident twist to make her vulnerable but lovable—and sometimes a little rough around the edges.

Ruffalo, meanwhile, truly stands out as Dan. The wheeling, dealing, fast-talking former exec may have his own story of heartbreak and desperation, but his love of music is so fundamental that hearing Gretta gives him hope—and the resulting energy and optimism carry the film. Even at the character’s worst, he’s still undeniably charming.

It isn’t every day (or even every year) that you’ll find a movie that can capture you, move you, and cause you to lose yourself in the story—but Begin Again can do just that. In a wild sea of summer blockbusters, it’s a calm, comforting island—a simple but surprising film that’s sure to win your heart.

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