[This is a re-post of my review from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Begin Again opens this weekend in limited release.]
John Carney’s 2007 film Once was a surprising, touching musical about two musicians falling in love through their love of music. It felt authentic thanks to the naturalistic direction, and real-life musicians Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, who made their acting debuts and fell in love in real life. That kind of chemistry is lightning in a bottle, but it provided Once with a unique and vibrant feel that expertly wove together a love of music and a love between two people. Carney’s new film, Begin Again, returns to similar territory but with a more polished approach that diminishes the charm in favor of a more Hollywood-friendly feel. The movie is still funny, good-natured, and most importantly, stresses the joy of sharing music with others. It’s even a little acerbic in its tone towards the music business, but Carney’s film is guilty of the some of the same critiques regarding watered-down entertainment.