Begin Again is a film written and directed by John Carney, who you may remember from the film Once, also known as the film that rips my heart into a million pieces and puts it back together again with its music. Begin Again, I would say, has a very similar feel in how the dialogue flows and how natural everything seems to be. It all seems very genuine.
Within the first ten minutes of this film, Mark Ruffalo, as Dan Mulligan, has caught your attention with his performance. Right out of the gate, he is dynamic and enticing. You want to see more. Kiera Knightley, as Gretta, is…well, she gives off the singer/songwriter vibe, which is what they are going for. As far as her singing voice goes, I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about it. It’s not awful by any means, and it’s not the greatest. But, it works for the film. It really does work.
The way backstory is provided throughout the film is interesting. It is laced seamlessly in with the present. But, there’s never any confusion as to whether you are watching something from the character’s past or their present. It’s beautifully done.
I connected this film, in a big way, to Sophia Coppola’s Lost In Translation. Lost In Translation happens to be one of my favorite films for many reasons. I wrote a paper on it once. I may post it here sometime, if I can ever find it. Anyway, it’s not a surprise, to me at least, that I made connections between the two films. The two biggest connections, the two that I am going to go further into, being the two main character’s relationship, and the title of the film and the different meanings behind it.
Let’s start with the first one: the relationship of the two main characters. Much like in Lost in Translation, our two main characters have other things going on in their love lives. Sure, in LiT, both characters Charlotte and Bob are married to other people, whether happily or not. In Begin Again both characters are fresh out of a relationship, Gretta out of a relationship with her, now, rock star boyfriend, and Dan separated from his wife who has custody of their daughter. Now, just like in LiT, both of our main characters meet at time in their lives that benefits both of them. In this film, however, their relationship doesn’t only benefit them personally, but also professionally. And, exactly like LiT, the nature of their relationship is never explicitly stated. It is left to the viewer to decide what it is. Is their relationship simply friendship? Is it love? Is it a deep admiration for the other person? Whatever it is, it is beautiful.
The second comparison I drew to LiT, is the many different meanings behind the title of the film. Begin Again. For Gretta, it’s starting over on a personal level. When we met her, we learn that her heart has just been broken and that she’s on her way back to England in the morning. After being convinced to stay, she picks herself back up. She shifts focus to her music, to creating music. Now, the main character of Dan Mulligan begins again both personally and professionally. When we meet him, he has just been fired from his job at a record label that he created. He drinks constantly. He has a strained relationship with both his daughter and his wife. He’s at rock bottom. Then, he hears Gretta play. And the scene that follows is what immediately put this film in a special place in my heart:
He sees, or rather hears, her music as an opportunity to fall back into the good graces of his record company. He gets a second chance. Through the process of producing Gretta’s record, he ultimately gets a second chance with his family, as well. In fact, even his last name is a meaning for second chance. Mulligan: an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot, not counted on the scorecard. That says it all.