Begin Again (2013) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

Begin Again (2013) Directed by John Carney. With Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, James Corden, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener.


After winning critical acclaim with his 2006 musical-romantic drama film, Once, writer-director John Carney returns to similar, albeit starrier ground with this New York-set story about a group of people brought together through a mutual love of music. In lesser hands, it could easily fall by the wayside as an unremarkable star-vehicle with nice songs, sung by depressed pretty people.

Mark Ruffalo co-stars as Dan, a down-on-his-luck music producer who stumbles drunk into a bar one night to discover Gretta (Keira Knightley) performing at an open-mic session. Ruffalo brings a natural charisma and charm, giving a performance that would add an extra star to any review. Opposite Ruffalo, Knightley is a prickly presence who demonstrates great versatility, bravely putting herself in a position of scrutiny. The songs themselves are beautiful and Knightley doesn’t let the side down as she captures the frustration of the single-minded musician, while holding her own on lead vocals.

This is a film full of people stepping outside of their comfort zones. Adam Levine, the lead singer of rock band Maroon 5, plays a prominent dramatic role as Knightley’s on/off boyfriend. His performance is capable, and his presence as an accomplished musician adds a layer of authenticity to the film that sees him successfully walk the delicate tightrope of rock-star turned-actor.

The cinematography captures the urban character of New York City, as opposed to the overused, glossy magazine cover style shots of the Chrysler Building. Carney opts for an impression of a city ripe for creativity – more organic than we’re used to seeing. Ultimately, Begin Again is a film about relationships through music. The relationship of film and music is a long and fruitful one – we have another gem to add to the playlist. 4/5

About garethrhodes

Full-time lover of all things creative.
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13 Responses to Begin Again (2013) Film Review by Gareth Rhodes

  1. Marta says:

    I agree, it’s indeed a little gem.

  2. I happened to have recently watched this and enjoyed it quite a bit. There’s an instant chemistry between Knightley and Ruffalo that’s so watchable and I’m glad it didn’t turn romantic. Good review!

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you for reading. Yes, you’re right, the chemistry was there, which was especially pleasing when taking into account that the actors/characters seem to come from very different worlds.

      The more I think about the film, the more I liked it. Perhaps if anything, the relationship between Knightley and Levine didn’t mean quite as much to me as it should have.

  3. Jay says:

    I love Once and couldn’t help but be a little disappointed in comparison. Budget doesn’t always equal better. Still, I was charmed by the streets of NY. Fun.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Yes, I think Once is a more organic, natural film but I was still impressed with how Carney managed to keep some of that alive here, especially considering this film has a lot more star wattage. I thought Mark Ruffalo was particularly excellent. There’s something real and cool about him that I find very reassuring.

  4. lukasfilm says:

    Nice little review, Gareth. Really enjoyed this one as well and would also classify it as a fun little gem. Wasn’t blown away, but the two leads were really entertaining to watch.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much for stopping by. Mt reaction to this surprised me. I didn’t expect it to get under my skin in any way, but it worked its magic. I think a lot of that has to do with Ruffalo. He’s rapidly working his way up my favourite actors list.

  5. I think I gave this film a C- & a D..ha! A ‘D’ for me.. and C- for others because I knew that somehow it would appeal to certain people. Sadly was not for me. but nice write up though..:)

  6. Max C says:

    I’m still yet to see this film as it seemed to me to be advertised as more of a chick flick rather than as a music oriented film in the UK. I might have to give it a shot now! Also it’s been a while since I’ve seen Keira Knightley perform. Really well written by the way.

    • garethrhodes says:

      Thank you very much. I hope it works for you. It isn’t a chick flick. although your’e right, it has been marketed that way. It’s a film about relationships through music, essentially.

  7. Lloyd Marken says:

    Yeah New York looked so romantic and modern in this.

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