Begin Again - Review

Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld  and Mark Ruffalo in 'Begin Again'.
Keira Knightley, Hailee Steinfeld and Mark Ruffalo in 'Begin Again'.
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Up until Wednesday evening I really couldn’t stand Keira Knightley.

It’s hard to convey how much she frustrated me but let me put it this way, had someone given me the choice between jumping out of an aeroplane with no parachute and interviewing Keira Knightley I most certainly would have taken my chances with the former.

'Begin Again' John Carney.

'Begin Again' John Carney.

I’ve been pretty forthright with my feelings for Keira over the years.

In films like ‘Atonement’ and ‘Pride & Prejudice’ I found her acting ridiculously painful to watch and her pouting was enough to make me want to repeatedly hit my head off a brick wall for a week.


I have to give Keira 10 out of 10 for her performance in John Carney’s ‘Begin Again’. Not only does she put in a decent acting display but she sings many of the songs in the film. Not only does she sing the songs but she sings them like a champion.

John Carney’s movie, which was released in the USA last year and was formerly known as ‘Can A Song Change Your Life?’.

The film is about music producer Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo) who is on the verge of losing his business, his job, his family and perhaps most importantly, his self-respect.

One day, Dan hits rock bottom and goes about drinking in bars all over New York and contemplates taking his own life.

He steps out from the subway and enters a bar only to hear English singer/songwriter, Greta (Keira Knightley) sing one of her songs.

Everyone in the bar except Dan are not impressed with Gretta’s performance but Dan hears something and after a bit of tooing and froing the pair set out to record an album in various outdoor locations around New York.

Gretta came to be in New York after she followed rock star boyfriend Dave Kohl (Adam Levine) but in the days leading up to her encounter with Dan, the couple split up.

If you enjoyed Carney’s film ‘Once’ then you will almost certainly like ‘Begin Again’.

At times the film is more cheesy than a perfectly aged slice of Saint Auger but it comes from a good place.

Not once does the movie feel preachy.

Instead it speaks from the heart and Mark Ruffalo is simply amazing.

Ruffalo, who is easily one of the most talented actors around, is fantastic as erstwhile movie producer Dan and he executes the character perfectly.

Knightley’s performance is most certainly a big improvement on everything else that has gone before and I know I am starting to sound a little like a broken record (forgive the pun) but her singing is absolutely brilliant.

The script isn’t the greatest but it’s held up by two strong performances from Knightley and Ruffalo and some tremendous songs.

The music was written by former ‘New Radicals’ front man, Gregg Alexander, and it would be no surprise at all to learn that the soundtrack went on to be as successful as the film.

A lot of what’s in ‘Begin Again’ would not be possible without John Carney.

Carney wrote the film and many of its most beautiful scenes, which include Dan and Gretta walking through New York listening to Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder and when Dan first hears Gretta singing for the first time, are constructed through his vision alone.

It’s a film with a big heart and a wonderful final message but I only wish Carney would have stopped it when the credits started to roll.

The post credit scenes are completely unnecessary and instead of leaving the cinema feeling upbeat and happy about the world I left feeling a little frustrated.

‘Begin Again’ is not flawless by any stretch of the imagination but I would definitely recommend that every movie lover watch it.

Its final message is worth the ticket price alone.

‘Begin Again’ is currently showing at the Brunswick Moviebowl. For full cinema listings please visit or telephone 02871 371 999.

VERDICT: 4/5 - John Carney’s film might not boast the script of the year but it’s got one hell of a heart. At times it feels contrived but it’s brought crashing back down to earth through portrayal of some of the film’s main relationships. Hailee Steinfeld (formerly of ‘True Grit’ fame) puts in a decent display as Dan Mulligan’s (Mark Ruffalo) daughter and any movie with Katherine Keener in it is always a big plus. Keira Knightley’s singing is superb and don’t be too annoyed if the person behind you is tapping along to the music - it really is that good.