Begin Again

A charming film with good music and appealing characters

Back in 2006, director John Carney charmed our socks off with the lovely Once, an Oscar-winning film (Best Song) about a pair of Dublin street musicians helping each other find their groove. Now he’s back with a bigger budget, name actors and a New York setting, but the theme is the same. Keira Knightley plays a freshly-dumped (by rock star Adam Levine) songwriter coerced by a friend into doing one personal, acoustic song in a noisy New York club. She is almost completely ignored; the only one listening is a drunken, washed-up music producer (Mark Ruffalo in a possible career best).

In the film’s most magical, memorable scene, her performance is replayed through his eyes, as his music man’s imagination reawakens, rearranges the song and adds sidemen only he can hear. Leery at first, she agrees to talk to this stumbling drunk, and the two begin a sort of professional courtship that has the potential to bring both their lives back on track. This unforced and unpretentious film offers good music, appealing characters and a story just offbeat enough to keep you interested. Thankfully retitled from the initial Can a Song Save Your Life? Japanese title: Hajimari no Uta. (103 min)