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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.
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.
- John Carney
- John Carney is a Dublin-born
writer, director, and musician. He
played bass with Irish rock band
The Frames and directed several
of the group's music videos. He
is also the co-creator of the Irish
television series Bachelors Walk.
His feature films include Once
(06), which won an Academy
Award for Best Original Song,
Zonad (09), The Rafters (12), and
Can a Song Save Your Life? (13).