A Tribute to a Crazy City

Review: Begin Again

Starring: Keira Knightly, Mark Ruffalo

Of all the films set in the crazily famous New York, this is my favourite. Begin Again featuring Kiera Knightly and Mark Ruffalo was released in 2013. The film explores the music industry through the eyes of muso couple Greta (Kiera Knightley) and Dave (Adam Levine). They’ve moved to New York to pursue Dave’s career but whilst in New York, Greta let’s her own creativity loose.

Probably one of the most aesthetically pleasing films I’ve seen in a while, somehow the rubbish strewn streets of the city have been made into beautifully contemporary paintings. The subtly hipster costuming is another element worth mentioning.

But I cannot deny that my favourite element of this film was the music. Dave may have a generic music taste but Greta creates music that is something else. In the film, she is recording her music in New York, in alley ways, on rooftops, and in the subway. Nothing is cut out, the sounds that were recorded are kept in, meaning that the tone of the music has so many different layers. Kiera Knightley isn’t the best singer, but for her character, it works. She isn’t supposed to be an award winning singer, she’s supposed to be an up and coming artist who has no idea what she’s doing.

James Corden also makes an appearance as Greta’s long lost friend who she reunites with in New York while he’s busking. Classic James Corden, he manages to add tiny wisps of humour in moments that you wouldn’t expect it, but it works so beautifully.

Love has so many forms. Even in just one family there are so many variations of the word. Brotherly, sisterly, motherly, fatherly. This film touches on so many different versions of love it’s almost overwhelming. The versions of love are shown so beautifully and heartbreakingly. But it’s not just the simple love, it’s the complicated, sticky situations that come along with loving someone. And that is what makes this movie so real, everyone can relate to it because everyone has loved someone, even if they don’t want to admit it.

1 Corinthians 13:4-5: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

None of the characters are strictly religious as far as I can tell but Mark Ruffalo’s character, Dan, does have an encounter with a religious man. In a moment of desperation Dan is told to talk to God but his response is along the lines of, what if he doesn’t talk back? I’m sure that nearly every Christian has called out to God and wondered if they’re just talking to their ceiling. I’m sure nearly everyone has thought to themselves, what if He isn’t listening? I am in no place to answer those questions, but although it was fleeting, it was fascinating to see that this desperate character didn’t say, God doesn’t exist, or who’s God? He didn’t deny that a God didn’t exist, he just thought that he wasn’t worthy of that God.

The question of why people make music is brought up during the film. For some, they make music because they love music, because they enjoy playing music. But sometimes this turns into loving money and wanting to make hits just for the sake of making hits. As Christians we use music as a way of worship, we use it to connect with each other and with God. Are we sometimes just worshipping for show?

The roots of this movie is music, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable for me. When the characters feel something, they put it into song and that just seems so pure to me. So pure and so real. Beautiful scenes are made out of a, sometimes, disgustingly urban area. For anyone who has had the opportunity to live in New York or even just visit, this movie is almost a tribute to the city. To the madness and the beauty of it.

“One of the most banal scenes is suddenly invested with so much meaning! All these banalities – They’re suddenly turned into these… these beautiful, effervescent pearls. From Music.”

Susannah Cornford

Begin Again is currently streaming on Stan




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