On the roadtrip from southern California earlier last month, my sister read aloud a review about Begin Again. It deemed it worthy of viewing because of one moment, but was otherwise “uninspired.” Unlike me, my sister remembered the review and invited me to see it with her. While we disagreed on our final opinions of it, I am glad we saw it.
Like all art forms, films are subjected to scrutinization and the perspectives of millions of people. Whether or not Begin Again is relatable, funny, or musically pleasing, it has a specific story to tell. Here is a summary of the film: a musician (Keira Knightley) works with a producer (Mark Ruffalo) to make an album. That’s not terribly interesting is it? The story begins in the details of said musician and producer and their relationships.
The struggles they face are not unique – the musician broke up with her boyfriend (Adam Levine) after he cheated on her and the producer’s wife cheated on him, leaving him, and led to the estrangement from his daughter. Their problems are not all fixed immediately nor do they end up in a romantic relationship. The film illuminates the changes that do occur in the characters with such subtly that is pleasantly surprising.
A question comes to mind: can people truly change?
Take, for instance, a moment in the film when the musician’s celebrity ex plays a song written by the musician as a Christmas gift for him. Initially the ex plays the song the way the musician intended – acoustically – then eventually slides into the pop version his producers created. As the musician watches the stage lights change and the accompaniment begin, she seems to realize he has not changed as he said he would/did.
Consider also a moment in which the musician and band are in the midst of a recording session. The producer ultimately chose to reach out to his daughter through music, by inviting her to the recording session and asking her to play. They are connecting as father and daughter, despite the obvious presence of other band members. The process of creating music, an activity the producer enjoys and prides himself in, connects the two in that moment. Yes, the producer relies on a familiar environment, but he induces change.
As someone who has tried repeatedly to spur new beginnings, I can say from experience that change is hard. Ultimately I believe people can change, can truly begin again, if they have the diligence and willingness to do so.
What do you believe?