It's summer and the popular movies at the theater tend to involve big and loud things doing big and loud things to cities and such. There are lots of 'splosions and things. Sometimes it's nice to find a quieter movie. A movie that you can take your wife or girlfriend to and enjoy because you see people who are in love doing things.
Back in 2007 director John Carney put out the movie Once and it was a kind of musical about two strangers who meet in a music store and then spend a few days together. Both of them are at crossroads in their life and barely hanging on to their hearts, their sanity and wondering where they should go. It is a touching love story that has a very non-traditional love story ending. The music was great and it became a sleeper hit.
Now, Carney is back and this time he has Keira Knightley, Adam Levine and Mark Ruffalo instead of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, but the magic still works. In fact, the songs were written, in part, by Hansard.
It's another musical and it's once again about two musical people who are losing everything that's important to them and they manage to find, and save, each other. There are more than a few critics who have said that this is just another form of Once, and there is something to that criticism, but Begin Again is more of a companion piece. If Carney were to do a third film following two lost people who come together via music in Los Angeles it could be a trilogy that follows a theme.
Knightley plays Gretta, a music writer who has spent years writing music with her partner and lover, played by Levine, in England. One of his songs has been featured in a film, that film, and the song, have become a hit and they are now in New York to sign a record deal. However, things go wrong fast as the temptations of being a rock star prove to be too tempting for Dave. Now, she is planning to head back to England, but a friend coaxes her on stage to sing an acoustic version of one of her songs.
Ruffalo plays Dan, a man who created a record label with his friend, Saul. He has a broken marriage, a wife who can barely stand him and a daughter who finds him embarrassing. He drinks. A lot. He has not discovered a new artist to put on the label in over seven years. Now, the label that he helped start thinks he and the label need to go in different directions. The day his world collapses he ends up in a bar where a young girl comes on stage and starts to play an acoustic version of one of her songs. He hears something he hasn't heard in a long time.
Dan and Gretta set about making an album of her music using the streets of New York as their studio. They get lost in the sheer joy of making music. Music, in turn, provides a way for them to heal and get over their respective losses.
Is this a great movie? Perhaps not. It is, however, funny, moving, exciting, and smile-inducing. Little touches make it unique like the moment when Dan listens to Gretta's song and starts imagining other instruments chiming in to make the song better. It's a great representation of how real music arrangers and music producers must hear the world.
And it is about love. Whether or not the two protagonists end up in each other's arms is not important. Love is about more than that. Love is finding a connection with a fellow human being and, perhaps, for just a moment, shining brighter than the world around you.
Begin Again is a welcome break from the loudness of the other summer movies. It's fun and touching and it's a great movie for a date. See it.