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'Begin Again' review: Music as redemption

Adam Levine, Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, James Corden, and John Carney promote "Begin Again."
Adam Levine, Mark Ruffalo, Keira Knightley, James Corden, and John Carney promote "Begin Again."
Photo by Stephen Lovekin

Begin Again (Indie film)


From the writer/director of “Once,” John Carney, “Begin Again” is another film centered on music, filled with the charm of indie music over commercial success. Not as touching as “Once,” “Begin Again” can’t quite decide its intention; not a comedy and not a romance, the “musical” label isn’t quite enough. The film dabbles into multiple stories but doesn’t quite come together as a whole.

A strongly opinionated music producer, Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is losing his connections with everyone, from his wife, Miriam (Catherine Keener), and daughter, Violet (Hailee Steinfeld), to his business partner Saul (Yasiin Bey). His brash behavior and uncommitted attention are sending him to a nervous breakdown, but he comes across a reluctant singing sensation, Gretta (Keira Knightley), in a random bar. With his vision and talent, Dan teams with Gretta to heighten her sound and pay tribute to New York by performing and recording throughout the city. Meanwhile, Gretta’s ex (Adam Levine) has become famous while touring in the U.S. but has sold out his art.

Talents in the film include famous musicians, such as Adam Levine, Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), and CeeLo Green, but Keira Knightley is the true star with a surprising endowment. “Begin Again” is full of necessary, great music to earn its position as a musical. It has a delightful sound.

Shockingly, “Begin Again” doesn’t force a romance but does fall into the common zone of making its tribute to New York its own love story. The relationships between the characters, though, are uncertain from beginning to end. Viewers will never be quite sure where the story is headed until it’s over, but the answer is nowhere; it’s about the creation of music and how such pure creation can rejuvenate.

Side note: The film supports de-commercializing the music industry, yet its own soundtrack is regularly priced.

Rating for “Begin Again:” B-

For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.

“Begin Again” is playing at quite a few theatres in Columbus, including Arena Grand and Marcus Crosswoods. For showtimes, click here.