Review: Begin Again

With its breezy charm, vibrant direction and stunning soundtrack, John Carney's Begin Again is surprisingly one of the most pleasant watches of the Summer.

Begin Again follows Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a disgraced record label boss, who has a chance encounter with a struggling singer-songwriter, Greta (Keira Knightley) who has recently split up from her pop star boyfriend (Adam Levine). Dan persuades Greta to collaborate with him on an album recorded throughout the bustling city of Manhattan.

Carney's first mainstream follow-up to his critically acclaimed feature, Once, is a light and effortlessly watchable experience that captures a pitch perfect balance between well handled drama, warm comedy and vibrant musical performances.

Carney's narrative feels fresh and original - it is rare that films delve into the music business and the world of recording artists. Whilst it may not be packed with character depth, Carney presents them with an earnest sincerity which remains refreshing throughout. The relationships feel sweet and sincere - from the friendship that develops between Dan and Greta to Dan's growing relationship with his teen daughter (Hailee Steinfeld).

Begin Again is also packed with enough creative direction for this to feel like an exciting and vibrant watch - most notably the dreamlike scenes which see Dan add musical instrumentation (with self-playing instruments) to Greta's vocals, which are impressively creative. Carney also captures a rich character in the city of New York. The concept of Greta recording her album throughout the city could have potentially been toe-curlingly 'quirky' but Carney handles it with a sense of class and fun, whilst also showcasing the beauty of the Big Apple.

The perfectly cast Ruffalo and Knightley play a strong part in the success of Begin Again. Ruffalo could play this sort of role in his sleep, with the actor bringing an effortless charm and likeability to the role of the boozy but kind hearted music exec. Knightley's character puts a fun spin on the traditional struggling musician angle - as she appears completely unfased and reluctant to enter the 'music biz'. Whilst the character's supposed authenticity may counteract itself at points, Knightley manages to impress throughout. There is an underplayed strength and warmth to her performance but it is Knightley's pleasant singing voice which surprises the most (think sweet Laura Marling/Norah Jones style folk-pop).

Adam Levine also continues to impress as an on-screen talent, but it is his contributions to the film's stunning soundtrack that take centre stage. Lost Stars, A Higher Place and No One Else Like You showcase the singer's unparalleled vocal style and will undoubtedly play a big part in the success of the soundtrack.

With its warm performances, good-humour, vibrant direction and dazzling soundtrack Begin Again is one of the most pleasant releases of the summer.

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