For all the rough edged, Irish charm of Once, director John Carney follows it up with a far more glossy affair, led by the famous chops of Keira Knightley and everyone’s favourite indie star, Mark Rufallo, forever turning the sound of tiredness into something cool. Then you’ve got supporting roles from pop stars Adam Levine, CeeLo Green and Mos Def, and British sitcom star James Corden (playing another version of ‘Smithy’) and you’ve got a strange, eclectic cast collected to appeal to all at once.
The film is no great revelation from the formula found in Once. You’ve got the whole, sweet idea of a romance blossoming between two people making music together in a city. This time Dan (Mark Rufallo) is a down and out music producer, who discovers the talents of Gretta (Keira Knightley) during an open mic night in a New York bar. It’s all arranged quite nicely, as we first see the song from Gretta’s perspective before flashing back to a day in the miserable life of Dan until we get to the point where’s he’s watching her and in his head we hear what he’s hearing: something special can be made of this track. This works well as to be totally honest, the music doesn’t readily stand out, largely because dear Keira is hardly Joni Mitchell. While she does a decent enough job singing, she certainly does not come across as extraordinary to the viewer, which is in contrast to what is otherwise one of her more charming dramatic performances in recent times.
Gretta and Dan end up ditching the traditional route of the music industry and record an album together around the city, whilst Gretta tries to move on from her relationship with her now-mega-famous popstar ex, Dave (Adam Levine). Despite little in the way of previous acting credits, Levine is actually perfectly fine in the role and his distinctive vocals provide some much needed onstage star power. Begin Again suffers from occasionally appearing rather limp in comparison to its prettier and more sincere little sister Once, but there’s still plenty of attraction and sweetness derived from the formula.
Begin Again is out now in the UK. Running time 104 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
Review by David Rank