2013 / Director. John Carney.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
ONCE is one of my favourite films of all time and, in fact, it recently nudged its way into my top 5. It's a film I can return to over and over and never tire of. Its magic is in its simplicity and the incredible music that permeates every moment. In my mind its an impossible film to top and I struggled to see how director John Carney could possible follow it up. He made a quirky little comedy next called ZONAD, which failed to resonate. But then he struck gold once more with BEGIN AGAIN, which sees Carey reuniting with ONCE's star and songwriter Glen Hansard who contributed the original songs to this new and wonderful musical drama that is cut from the very same cloth of ONCE. Stepping out of the low budget, indie film scene in Dublin, Carney has set his new story in New York City and he has enlisted the talents of an impressive ensemble including Kiera Knightly, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Catherine Keener, CeeLo Green, Mos-Def and James Corden. Ruffalo plays a washed-up record company executive who finds himself booted from his own company when he refuses to adapt to the new superficial focus that they're adopting. He walks into a bar and hears a young woman (Knightly) playing an acoustic song at the open-mic. Certain that she is his ticket back into the industry he offers to produce an album with her and together they embark on a unique and mutually therapeutic journey. With no studio to record in they set about recording songs outside in various locations across the city and using the ambience of New York to imprint itself on the music. While BEGIN AGAIN doesn't reach the absolute sincerity and earnestness of ONCE, it sure as hell comes close and is very much a companion piece. Hansard's songs are lovely and Keira Knightly sings them well. Ruffalo's performance also feels personal and he seems to have fully immersed himself in the character. James Cordin is also excellent as Knightly's best friend, a busker who helps to produce and record her album. He brings a humble and grounded quality to the film that helps tie it to the aesthetic of ONCE. Perhaps the biggest revelation in the film is Adam Levine (Maroon 5). I've seen him in various films and television before but he's never been as convincing and heartfelt as he is in this film. His final moment on screen is actually quite mesmerising and the slightest expression conveys a weight of emotion. BEGIN AGAIN plays like a perfect second act to ONCE and here's hoping that Carney & Hansard return for a final act.