Begin Again

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Begin Again Movie Poster Image
Parents recommend
Music-heavy film explores reinvention and forgiveness.
  • R
  • 2014
  • 104 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 8 reviews

Did this review miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive, diverse representations in books, TV shows, and movies. Want to help us help them? Suggest a diversity update

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

It's not over until it's over, and just because you're down doesn't mean you're out. Perseverance is the secret to making it through a challenging journey. Greta's story demonstrates the importance of following your own dreams, rather than riding sidecar for someone else's. Themes include forgiveness and artistic integrity.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Greta expresses herself through her music and doesn't bend too far in her quest to be famous. Dan clearly loves his family, despite the demons he battles daily, including his drinking.


A man punches another; one character responds very loudly and vociferously to getting fired, causing a scene at the office. A woman slaps a man, and he throws his glass into a sink.


Kissing between couples. There's talk of a man sleeping with a woman who's not his girlfriend, though nothing is seen. Longing stares. There's also some talk of a woman cheating on her husband, hurting her entire family. A teenager tells her dad she has no money left from her allowance because she spent it on condoms.


Frequent (but not constant) strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "bullsh-t."


Some characters drink Pepsi and Stella Artois, and many use Apple products, which are very present throughout the movie.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man is constantly inebriated. He drinks in a car, from a flask, even while driving, and once asks his teenage daughter for money to pay for his beer. He's aware that he has a problem. He also smokes an e-cigar. Other characters are shown taking a quick drag on cigarettes. Social drinking among friends, usually shots or hard liquor.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Begin Again is an affecting quasi-musical from the director/writer of Once about how music can be a salve to wounded personalities. The central character, Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a music exec who's clearly battling an alcohol problem, and his transformation is the centerpiece of the movie (alongside the metamorphosis of a young woman who changes from being known as the girlfriend of her famous boyfriend into a musical talent in her own right). Dan is shown drinking, sometimes while driving, and appears rudderless after being fired. The movie's themes -- forgiveness, artistic integrity, infidelity -- may be somewhat heavy for tweens and younger, and there's lots of strong language (including "s--t" and "f--k"), but teens will love the music and spotting artists they've come to know, including Adam Levine and Cee-Lo.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13 and 15-year-old Written byKaty L July 18, 2014

Positive view of women and family healing

This film is rated R mostly for language--so if that's not an issue for you, take your teens to see it. My critically-minded 15-year-old LOVED it and calle... Continue reading
Adult Written byKen R. March 22, 2021

Begin Again – Yes, Please Do

I wonder how many people who paid good money to see this came away wishing they had known better. Some cleaver visuals can’t make up for a laboured, swear fest... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byethanct86 October 12, 2015

Saw it on the plane; made me cry. Great message with bad content worries.

I loved the plot, it makes me cry even though there are some extra useless things hanging around which could maybe have been omitted.
More than 50 f-bombs and... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byB-KMastah July 13, 2014

Super cute and far better than the trailers suggest.

I only saw this because of the surprisingly positive reviews. The trailers don't do this justice, but instead make this look unabashedly schmaltzy and anno... Continue reading

What's the story?

Dan Mulligan (Mark Ruffalo) is the founder of a record label and a former producer with a drinking problem who finds himself adrift after losing his touch -- and eventually his job -- in BEGIN AGAIN. His teenage daughter (Hailee Steinfeld) hates him, and his estranged wife (Catherine Keener) is tired of being disappointed. Then he walks into a bar and sees a clearly upset Gretta (Keira Knightley) singing onstage, armed with a perfect, soulful melody and lyrics to match. She just got her heart stomped by her longtime musician boyfriend (Adam Levine), who told her that he'd fallen in love with someone else. Dan realizes that Gretta is an undiscovered talent who could provide him a ticket back to success. Together, they bring her music to life, making a demo album on the streets of NYC, fueled by inspiration but not much funding or institutional support, each searching for reinvention and finding more.

Is it any good?

The movie's fun, though it's a mite too familiar and feels like a re-tread of Once. Filmmaker John Carney loves to bring together characters at the nexus of loss and possibility, which he did brilliantly with that music-heavy debut. In Begin Again, he recaptures some -- but not all -- of the same magic by telling a similar story about another pair who find each other at just the moment when their lives are at their most chaotic and they're in sore need of inspiration and human connection. First, what works: Ruffalo is the emotional anchor of the film, grounding Dan in palpable vulnerability. His scenes are moving, especially when they include Steinfeld as a daughter aching for a father who will be present. And the rest of the cast -- even Levine, who's moonlighting here from his gig with Maroon 5 -- mostly keeps up with Ruffalo and Steinfeld.

For a movie in which the music is so crucial, there aren't too many songs that will really stay with the audience (except perhaps "Lost Stars," which is a stand-out); they get the job done, but they don't transport you. Knightley has a pretty voice, but it lacks the depth and heft of a seasoned musician. (No wonder the energy shifts when Levine takes the stage, showing how a performance can electrify.) Still, Begin Again captures the thrill of finding out that you've been given a second chance ... alongside the bittersweet pain of meeting someone who touches your soul but may just be passing through. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Begin Again portrays drinking. Dan clearly has a problem with alcohol. How does the movie address it? Are there realistic consequences? Does it prevent him from being a good father? 

  • The film includes lots of music and uses it to explore its themes. How is it similar to and different from other music-heavy movies?

  • Are the main characters role models? Why or why not?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love music

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate