New film of muscian’s love story breaks expectations of traditional romantic comedies

Dustin Gebel

 “Begin Again” explores whether a song can save a soul. The 2013 film centers around two musicians who fall in love after experiencing deep despair.

“Begin Again” is written and directed by John Carney, starring Mark Ruffalo as Dan, a down-in-the-dumps music executive who wants nothing more than to find an original sound. Starring as his opposite, Keira Knightley plays Gretta, an English musician trying to get past a bad breakup with new sellout popstar Dave portrayed by Adam Levine.


After losing his job due to a drinking binge, Dan is about to commit suicide when he hears Gretta reluctantly performing in a bar. The music reaches Dan, and he offers to produce her music. The two are rejected by Dan’s former partner, so they instead decide to produce an album on their own.


The bulk of the film deals with recording Gretta’s break-out album and succeeds in creating a tale that is romantic and serves as an ode to New York City. The music scenes are filmed and recorded in common locations like rooftops, alleys and sides of the street. “Begin Again” follows director John Carney’s pattern of writing love notes to the city.


The film challenges the typical romantic comedy genre since the leads don’t end up together by the end of the film. Rather, the characters end up getting a form of what they want. This is a common theme in Carney’s films where maybe love doesn’t always win out.


Gretta’s album succeeds while Dan and his ex-wife reunite during the process along with their budding musician daughter Violet (Hailee Steinfeld). Even if the leads don’t end up together, they are better off for having met each other, possibly having healed through the course of the film. This creates a bittersweet ending that still is satisfying for audiences.


The glaring issue with the movie is the music itself. While the original songs sound beautiful and well put together, they counteract a central message of the film. Rather than the rough, live sounds of musicians playing, the films’ audio tracks feature studio-recorded, layered-over Gretta and the band. It removes the concept of imperfect music, which is a key component of the fictional album and the film.


The music, however, overcomes this glaring problem, adding to the film’s atmosphere and helping to establish relationships between characters. The chemistry between Ruffalo and Knightley push the film beyond average. The leads are able to play with one another and despite contrasts, find common ground. The love of music binds them together and helps them help one another.


“Begin Again” is a film that focuses on broken people and how music can help and heal. It is for anyone looking for a fun, enchanting musical experience that tells an intense personal story about people.