#TIFF13 Film Review: CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE? by John Carney

photoI am going to try very hard to say more than, “This film is absolutely fantastic, everyone should see it because it is wonderful, you have no idea,” because I definitely feel that way about this film, and that’s a very big deal to me.

Originally, this was not on my list at all. Actually, as you can see from photos, what was originally a 3-film plan, became a 5-film plan. Actually, even before that I only planned to see one film, but apparently, this is what film festivals are like. Anyway, this film wasn’t on my list because I personally avoided it because of Keira Knightley, for no reasons other than the fact that I do not like her acting.

I am glad that I gave it the benefit of the doubt, regardless of her presence.

To start, the film has a simple premise:

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 (from Tiff.net).

At first, it almost sounded cliche to me, and as someone who was not familiar with Carney’s work, I went in face first with no clue. In the end, going at it that way was the best thing ever.

The movie is about making beautiful music in the streets of New York. And I don’t mean being in New York and recording in a studio there, they actually made music on the streets and recorded an entire album. A love-story to New York that was beautiful, and whimsical and inspiring. The film was frank, witty and fantastic, and I fell in love with every single character, up to and including Greta (Knightley).

Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Photo by Andrew Schwartz

Greta is a wonderful character through and through. She was beautiful written and executed perfectly for the audience. She is poised without being stuck-up, and smart without being cocky. She writes songs for her own pleasure and hates seeing her face on the camera. She is shy, but confident, and loves her work. She is vulnerable, and real and everything that we all are when we are down on our luck, and how we are when things are finally looking up. She was cursed with a love for a guy (Adam Levine) who was too quick to draw, too much of a rockstar, and blessed with a best friend (James Corden) who is there for her through it all. Knightley and Corden’s on-screen BFFness was probably my favourite part of the whole thing. They had such wonderful rapport and chemistry, and Corden’s presence made Knightley so much more human and real than her former period-movie counterparts. In the end, with his initial help, and later on Dan’s (Ruffalo), Greta finds her place in a city where she felt lost and alone.

Dan, a washed-up producer that was recently fired by his partner (Mos Def) and was about to off himself, until he heard Greta’s song. This first encounter was a beautiful one. While everyone heard Greta’s song as something that was boring and whining, Dan heard something else entirely. His (drunken) mind completed the song, and you just have to see the film to see what I’m talking about when I say that it is magical. Yep, that’s definitely the word for it, magical. He is cantankerous, vulgar and fantastically smart, and when he first meets Greta, they bash heads, almost immediately. Like Greta, he is lost, cursed by love and forgotten by love, but it definitely gets better for him. He finds his roots back into what made him who he was, both in terms of who he is as a person and as a family man. His side of the story have such a realistic end, and it definitely makes me want to say that this is one of the best films I’ve seen in a long time.

The film is funny, quirky and real. I think those are the best three words I can associate with it. Regardless of the fact that there are big musicians in it playing, well, musicians, it still had such a everyday life feel to it that didn’t make it absurd. Like the film before this, I definitely recommend that everyone see CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE? when it gets a full release. Because why wouldn’t it? It’s bloody brilliant.

Q&A portion included John Carney, who is hilarious and brilliant. I laughed so hard the whole time, and he definitely said a lot of gold throughout.

“Adam Levine is so good looking, it’s fucking annoying.

“At the start, he was at Douche 2, and then four. By the end, he was on Deftcon Douche.” (On Adam Levine’s character’s beard progression of douchery.)

It was amazing because among the audience were the three songwriters of the film (which had mostly original songs), and Carney exclaimed, “These are the three assholes that are going to win the Oscar!” and I definitely agree. All the songs were fantastic, and the producers are such a delight to listen to. Now that I think about it, one of the songwriters laughed the loudest in the theater, and that’s just adorable. Also, there was a lot of Irish love in the room; Carney was feeling homesick.

So yes, definitely see the film. It’s worth it, and the best I’ve seen so far. Tomorrow I have a double feature of Under the Skin and Don Jon, so look out for reviews of those films!


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