Begin Again Movie Poster Image

Begin Again



Music-heavy film explores reinvention and forgiveness.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2014
  • Running Time: 104 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.

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.

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. 

Families can talk 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

Theatrical release date:June 27, 2014
DVD/Streaming release date:October 28, 2014
Cast:Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine
Director:John Carney
Studio:Weinstein Co.
Topics:Friendship, Music and sing-along
Run time:104 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language

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What parents and kids say

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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 called it her new favorite movie. Think Once with a much happier ending, family redemption, a positive music vibe, and a view of women that is very positive. It deals realistically with issues of parent/teen strife, marital strife, extra-marital attraction (without actually going there--for once!), and struggling to make it in the music industry. Plus Mark Ruffalo is amazing.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much swearing
Parent Written byauntpeapie July 30, 2014

Saw it first; went back with my teens

My kids are into music and I had a feeling they'd love this movie. I saw it first to see why the R rating. Granted there is drinking and smoking, talk of infidelity (on two occasions) and some bad language, but the message is positive and focuses on forgiveness and standing on your own two feet. Plus the music is amazing, Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo are great together and I'd rate the violence at 1 (one sucker punch) and sex/nudity at 0. The dozen or so F-bombs are what, in my opinion, keep it from being PG-13. I think it's perfectly fine to expect kids to witness bad behavior and understand that because other people do it (smoking, drinking, swearing) doesn't make it OK.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
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 annoying, but it's actually really cute. It has some tropes, but that doesn't detract from the movie itself, and it actually isn't as predictable as one would think. Kiera Knightley is adorable, and holy crap, she can sing. She has such a great presence and works well with Mark Ruffalo, and he does what he needs to do given his role's rather archetypical characteristics. Whenever he seems to not be as great as Knightley, it's because of the script, not him. The supporting actors are nice and don't feel expendable. The film itself is fun to watch and is consistent throughout, although it feels a bit long mostly because film's first act is a slower than it could be. The music is good and comes off as realistic, and (surprisingly) not corny or like the songs are there just to fill time. Although the movie isn't super original in its concept, the character development is a bit different than other music-centric films, and it has such a nice energy about it. I want to hug Kiera Knightley. 7.9/10, good, one thumb up, above average, etc.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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