Begin Again (2013)
written and directed by John Carney
One of my favorite romantic dramas of all time is 2007’s Once, a micro-budgeted Irish film in which two musicians meet and fall in love while working on a demo album together. It was simple, well-acted, and beautiful, with a wonderful soundtrack to boot. Best of all, the romance took place with not even a kiss between the characters, a choice I found both refreshing and believable.
Six years later, writer/director John Carney repeated the whole formula with Begin Again, in which a down-on-his-luck record label owner (Mark Ruffalo) and a young songwriter (Keira Knightley) meet and fall for each other while recording a demo. But this time the magic is not there. While Once felt effortless and authentic, here the whole thing feels strained, beginning with two characters who have no chemistry whatsoever, and further complicated by the fact that most of the songs, well, kinda suck. And if we can’t understand what Ruffalo sees in Knightley’s wispy compositions – how he can make her a true star – how are we to believe the rest at all? Begin Again needs some auto-tuning.
Carlos I. Cuevas