John Carney is one of the few people working in movies today whose next work I am always eager to see. Along with a few others such as Richard Linklater, he has proved to me that you can take a premise which has been explored many times before and view it from a different perspective to create something that feels original and fresh. His previous work 'Once' did this and is among my favourite films.
Suffice to say, when I saw the trailer for Begin Again it simply did not grab me. My first worry was that it looked 'too Hollywood' (read as 'cliche and predictable movie churned out to make money with little care or thought for the story it is telling'). I felt a little worried going in to see the film that somehow Mr. Carney had fallen foul of the big producers, making sacrifices to the story in order to get some 'names' into it.
However, around 20 minutes in, my hopes returned and I knew it was going to be special... and it just got better from there. the film builds on the story and characters as it goes on, making me care about them, showing me things I had never seen before in similar movies and above all, making me think. As the credits rolled, I was wiping my eyes, partly from the wonderful soundtrack but mostly because Begin Again is a magical film. It still has the 'spark' that I felt in his previous pictures, a huge amount of love, passion and care that has brought it into being - not just a half baked idea thrown out there to pay back impatient investors. The soundtrack, performances and well-crafted script took me on an emotionally rewarding journey, leaving me feeling inspired, uplifted and a little nostalgic for times gone by. yep, I am gushing, but it really is going to be hard to beat for film of the year for me.
Between the scenes, I also loved how it discreetly touched on some important issues with throwaway lines, addressing things which people take for granted these days: 'Music is for the ears, not the eyes.' and 'don't dress like you are easy' being two of them. Image is so ingrained into art these days, the majority of people all seem to judge a book by it's cover without looking inside. And the same could be said for this film too. On the outside it looks like yet another generic, manufactured Pop Idol... but if you sit down and watch it, I think you will be pleasantly surprised that it has something profound to say and says it well.
Thought provoking, life affirming and highly recommended!