With shows such as The X Factor, Pop Idol and Britain's Got Talent all over television, the "rise to fame" story is everywhere you look. Popular culture is filled with characters that have made it from reality TV. In this climate, it is easy to forget that some artists still do make it through hard work and perseverance. With Begin Again, the audience watches the journey of budding young artists set adrift in New York City.
The film is written and directed by John Carney, who also wrote and directed Once (later adapted for the stage under the same name). Again, the story and characters revolve around music and songs, and the film itself is led by a great soundtrack that was performed by Knightley and the other actors themselves. Like Carney's previous films, this works because the characters are both initially appealing and slowly unravelling.
Dan, despite his drinking problem, is funny and lovably lost. Gretta is equally lost, but still fiercely independent and holds her integrity regarding her music. As the film progresses and their relationship develops, as well as the music they make, you come to learn how the two characters came to be so lost. Gretta recounts moving to New York with her successful musician boyfriend only to be betrayed. Dan, who you initially believe may have been the cause of his marital breakdown and distance from his daughter, reveals a justifiably devastating truth. The film displays great character development and engages the audience along the way.
As usual, Mark Ruffalo shines as a man that has made bad choices. Bitter and broken he still manages to create a charismatic and empathetic character.
Hailee Steinfeld, although in a smaller role, adds to her impressive acting credentials as the angst-riddled teenager, which can so often be such a samey role, but here is injected with a much stronger spirit thanks to the talents of the young actress.
Although the soundtrack is a highlight, the clearly pre-recorded nature of the performances does stunt the atmosphere. Even in the most intimate of moments, a live set would have been a wiser choice, though this does not harm the film as a whole.
A simple, but brilliantly done story with a great cast. In a world of X Factor sob stories and easy routes to fame, you admire a character who wants to make it on hard work and talent. And the awesome soundtrack just gives Begin Again another strength that makes it worth seeing all the more.