Can a song really save your life? That is a question that has been asked for years and years but has never really been proven to the world (at least not in a historical documented way). In John Carney‘s new musical dramedy Begin Again, the answer to that question is played out on the big screen. Ironically, the film’s original title was Can A Song Save Your Life? and that theme is very much apparent throughout the film and takes on multiple forms within each character’s personal journey, no matter how large or small.
Carney without a doubt portrays the theme of music being a universal language as he did in his 2007 film Once. It features the talented Keira Knightley, an independent singer-songwriter dealing with a broken heart, and Mark Ruffalo, a washed up record label executive looking for something fresh and unique to work with. Knightley and Ruffalo head a team of eclectic performers that include Maroon 5‘s Adam Levine, Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), and CeeLo Green (as well as a handful of talented actors like Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener, James Corden).
Begin Again focuses on the the lives of two lost souls in dire need of a change in their lives. Gretta (Knightley) is devastated by how newfound musical success has changed her long-time boyfriend Dave (Levine) and finds herself questioning why she should even stay in New York City. Dan (Ruffalo) is separated from his wife (Keener), has a less than ideal relationship with his daughter (Steinfeld), and his business partner (Bey) has pretty much given up on his ability to find a suitable artist for their label. On the night that Gretta had her bags packed to go back to the UK, her best friend Steve (Corden) brings her up on stage to perform an original song. As if by fate, Dave happened to stumble into the same bar that she is performing at and absolutely falls in love with her song. Together, they embark on an adventure of re-finding themselves through the power of music.
Of course, how could I NOT discuss the music (let’s just say that each track has strong potential for the Academy’s choice for Best Original Song). I’ve gotta say that Knightley was impressive and refreshing in her singer-songwriter style considering she has never done a role in which she sings (props to her vocal coach Roger Love). Levine definitely showcased a more emotional side of him that doesn’t really come out through the pop tunes produced with his band. Each track is set to the background of the constant hustle and bustle of the New York city life and brings an artistic realness that the music today doesn’t even contain. Songwriter and composer Gregg Alexander brought the film and theme to life through its music and it’s undoubtedly commendable.
Begin Again is a beautiful film that truly proves the untapped power and influence that music can have on an individual and hopefully it inspires the artistically ignorant to really appreciate all that music has to offer them. I personally consider this movie as a visual documentation of that age old question. Think about it: can a song really save your life? Simple Plan touched bases on this topic in “This Song Saved My Life” from their 2011 album Get Your Heart On!. They post out a Twitter blast to encourage fans to share their personal stories of how their music has helped them and the end product was absolutely phenomenal.
I guess the point of this article was to not only praise Begin Again, but to remind you that you should embrace the deep emotional bonds that you have with a song or songs. Sometimes songs get thrown into our life, whether it be a new release or one that you have grown a new appreciation for, at a time when it’s most needed. It might not even be from an artist that we listen to on a regular basis, when a song hits you you feel every aspect of it and you have no control over it. Music is a universal language generated from emotion and experiences, and without it what exactly would we have to tie us all together? What other artistic options would we be able to lose ourselves in? The power of one song is underestimated and it’s something that should be looked at on a deeper level.