Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Catherine Keener star in this soul-stirring music industry drama about an undiscovered young singer and a washed-up producer. These lost souls meet, see something special in the other and ultimately make beautiful music together in this latest film from Once writer-director John Carney.
Can a Song Save Your Life?
Following forays into comedy and supernatural thriller, Irish writer-director John Carney has returned to the musical, the genre he reinvented with 2006's hugely acclaimed, Academy Award-winning Once. In Can a Song Save Your Life?, the bassist-turned- filmmaker reprises the formula that made Once a sensation, supplementing his principal cast (including Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo) with established recording artists (Yasiin Bey — otherwise known as Mos Def — CeeLo Green, and Maroon 5's Adam Levine), and seamlessly integrating a series of infectious ballads into the structure of a poignantly authentic romantic drama.
Knightley and Levine play Greta and Dave, college sweethearts and songwriting partners who decamp for New York after he lands a deal with a major label. But the trappings of his new-found fame soon tempt Dave to stray, and a reeling, lovelorn Greta resolves to return to her native Britain. Enter Dan (Ruffalo), a disgraced indie record-label exec with his own history of betrayal, who stumbles upon Greta as she's baring her soul on an East Village stage. Immediately recognizing the makings of a star, he pleads with her to delay her departure and insists that he produce her demo. From this chance encounter emerges an enchanting portrait of a mutually transformative collaboration, set to the soundtrack of a summer in the Big Apple.
As with Once, unassuming naturalism is
Carney's guiding principle, and he affords
his cast abundant room for improvisation.
The results are marvellously disarming,
with Knightley and Ruffalo sharing a compelling
chemistry, and Hailee Steinfeld and
Catherine Keener contributing nuanced
turns as Dan's estranged daughter and wife.
Meanwhile, Levine, making his big-screen
debut, riffs cannily on his real-world popstar
persona, playing the sort of conflicted
character that channels Carney's gifts as a
candid chronicler of capricious hearts.