Film Review: Begin Again

Since I first saw the trailer I have been waiting patiently for Begin Again to arrive. There was just something warm and charming about the principle on which the movie was based, it just appealed to me and with John Carney, who gave us the stunning Once, in the Director’s chair even my slight dislike of James Cordon playing any other role than “Smithy” was at ease. And so, with it’s release date finally passed my local multiplex decided that nobody wants to watch anything other than CGI robots hitting each other and aren’t showing it!

But, when you want something you occasionally have to search it out, and search I did and so it was off to different venue and the 2nd smallest “multiplex” screen I have ever sat in to finally make friends with the music and the story and see if this film really did live up to my expectations, or whether as I was slightly fearing, I was placing it on too high a pedestal. Expecting too much.

Overall, I am not 100% sure about the film. It’s good and certainly, you cannot claim it’s bad and I enjoyed it, but it’s flawed. I spent large portions of the film thinking I’d best describe it as chocolate cake. A gooey, sticky, covered in sauce chocolate cake that when you dig in turns out to be cold and not packing the full flavour punch it deserves. And Begin Again is sadly just that, it’s lacking the full punch, the richness and depth that you feel it needs to really move you with its story. Which is such a shame because underneath everything it’s crying out to give you it. Everything is there just the quantities are wrong.

Begin Again - Keira Knightley & Mark Ruffalo

My first slight problem is with Mark Ruffalo, who is as always stunningly talented, but he ends up looking at times like he’s just walking through it, it almost looks too simple for him at times and this results in a situation where you don’t believe he’s playing a character. You feel you’re just watching Mark Ruffalo. Countering this is Keira Knightley, who even helped by being asked to play “slightly posh Brit” just never feels convincing enough in her role either. She’s almost too shy and too “flowers in her hair” feminine to really fit the world she’s coming from and going to. These then add together so that the relationship they therefore form throughout the film and the routes it uses to develop their characters at times feels unnatural and uncomfortable, yet weirdly also acceptable, it never drives you away from the story, it just never gives you everything you want. It’s a strange sense to have.

Amazingly, though, all worries aside, it’s Cordon who for me stole the show and lightened the film in just the right way to really break the plot up perfectly and ensure that it never feels heavy. His interjections also mean the pacing changes regularly enough to keep the film feeling fresh and like there is true motion to the story. Cordon manages to drag things perfectly along so it never feelsat any point to just be plodding along.

Begin Again - Kkeira Knightley & James Corden

There is though, one big elephant. The big hook to this film and the part that drew me first to it. The music. The first thing to point out is that completely surprisingly, the music actually takes something of a back seat in the film, it’s used in such a way that it never feels pushed onto you and in fact, the narrative and the lives of the main characters is far more important and given far more emphasis than any audio element. There is one major issue with the music in the film though and that is the strength of performance capability of Knightley, an actress and Adam Lavigne, professional musician. While the gap in arrogance, talent and musical power is meant to highlight the original weaknesses and progressive growing strength of Knightley’s character, Lavigne just constantly looks a cut above anything she is capable of and it becomes a constant reminder that this film is essentially pitting an actress against a musician in an unfair fight.

Like I said at the start, even though it might be sounding like I didn’t like masses of this film I promise you I did enjoy it. And would happily watch it again. It really isn’t a bad film, and unlike for example Chef, isn’t instantly unforgettable. It’s purely a case that for me, the first 90 minutes are a bit lacking to what it should be giving you.

Begin Again - Adam Lavigne

But it’s the conclusion, the wrapping up of the story, the on screen actions and decisions of Knightley’s character and the way evening is drawn together that won me over. In the final 10 minutes this film just grabbed me, and finally moved me in the way that I truly hoped it would. It gave me it’s heart and the warmth it had to offer and it’s left me slightly moved.

I find my reaction to the last 10 minutes almost bizarre because underneath it all, this film really is just a simple Hollywood “rom-com” that is lacking the real humanity and believablity of Once. Begin Again gives you everything to be the “it never happens like that” throw away summer film and yet has left me admiring it as much as I do Once. I have a feeling though that while it didn’t hit the heights I was originally wanting from it, the reason the last 10 minutes have left me so moved by it is more do with me and the position I am in mentally right now than the power of the film.

Do give it a go though because it’s honestly got a good heart and a good voice, it’s just a bit shy about up on stage and singing.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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