The routine way of looking at 'Begin Again' or any movie featuring music as a catalyst will be: Music saves the characters. Even this movie was initially titled 'Can a Song Save your Life?'.
Ironically, in case of 'Begin Again', music has been there all along in the lives of its characters. Dan (Ruffalo) and his wife are both in the music business, Greta (Knightley) and her rock star boyfriend Dave are also constantly surrounded by making music, writing songs, even her friend Steve who plays music on the street, lives in a dingy apartment full of recording instruments. Music is everywhere in the universe of this movie.
They have to take their music out of the tangles they have created in their lives. In a way, the characters give a new direction to the music in their lives. Sometimes a different setting or different people help you see the same old people and music in new light or simply help you look inwards. There is a scene where Dan and Greta walk through New York plugged into their iPod listening to each other's play-list. After all you can tell a lot about a person by their taste in music can't you?
If you look at it from your opinion of 'Once' (also directed by John Carney), 'Begin Again' might look too shiny with a big star cast, a studio distribution and all that jazz. However, that's not what makes it lovable. It is a kind of movie that anyone with even a bit of music in their lives will be able to appreciate.
It is a story of two characters who accidentally meet and literally start making music outside the box, the confinements of studios and the traditional production details.
Too many feel good, preachy movies that try too hard at reaching out, are out and about these days. 'Begin Again' may look like one of those on the surface, but watching it will make you realize how it defies a lot of Rom Com cliches.
Mark Ruffalo's Dan Mulligan is raw and over the top and expectedly misunderstood. Just watch him stand in the middle of that cafe, adding musical paraphernalia to Greta's song with tired eyes and the sated smile of listening to a song that stirs him back to life. And who knew Keira Knightley could sing so well too? Adam Levin and James Corden also add to the shine of the movie.
It has been a while since the movie is out, but could finally manage to catch in the theater in Germany yesterday. And the image that is still left with me is that of Greta singing 'Coming Up Roses' in the street studio set up around the trash cans and Dan convinces some kids playing on the street to be the chorus and sing 'hold on, hold on'.