It was a lazy weekend at the Cineplex. The biggest movie was Transformers: Age of Extinction, but it hasn’t been nearly the profit juggernaut of its predecessors. Melissa McCarthy’s R-rated Tammy did OK. The faith-flavored frightflick Deliver Us From Evil kinda bombed. Historically, the Fourth of July holiday has meant some seriously big business for Hollywood, but this Independence Day, most folks didn’t see much that interested in what was playing.
Maybe if they’d heard about Begin Again—a tiny indie movie playing in just 175 theaters—they might’ve had a change of heart.
Part of me would like to think so, anyway. Weird of me, a Plugged In reviewer, to say that about an R-rated romantic dramedy, I suppose. But outside the f-words and whatnot, this flick was pretty sweet—a moving, well-told story about the beauty of family and friendship and music.
And it even had a hint of faith, too. Let me explain.
Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a down-on-his-luck music producer—a one-time Grammy-winning dynamo who’s about two bars away from his coda. His marriage has crumbled. He barely knows his teenage daughter. He spends his time and cash on booze, and he’s rapidly running out of all three. And one dark night, after losing his job in the record company he helped create, he’s ready to get drunk and die.
On what might be his last subway ride, smashed out of his pumpkin, he sees and hears an annoying evangelist, handing out pamphlets and encouraging wary riders to seek God. "God may not be on our time," he tells the passengers in that sincere, clueless way you’d expect, "but He's always on time." Dan takes a pamphlet and grins a drunken grin, mostly in mockery. "I'm gonna have a little talk with God, tonight, all right," Dan says, sloshing off the train. He turns back to the closing doors. "But what if He doesn't answer? What if He doesn’t answer?” The train speeds away, not acknowledging Dan’s question.
He staggers into a bar and slumps down, just as a woman named Greta (Kiera Knightley) begins to sing. She’s suffered her own miserable day: She just learned her long-time boyfriend has been cheating on her, with both another woman and the mistress called fame. She’s ready to go home to England and put her life back together, but a friend of hers dragged her to the bar. Now, he called her up on stage to sing—the last thing she wants to do. But sing she does. And her song includes the words, “Don’t pray to God ‘cause He won’t talk back.”
There, in the lowest of lows, the two bemoan, in startlingly similar ways, how God has forsaken them. It reminds me of one of the most famous angry laments in all the Bible, Psalm 22, verses 1 and 2:
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.
And yet, maybe God does answer. For in that moment of anguish, these two lost souls find each other.
“I was ready to kill myself until I heard your song,” Dan admits. He admits to her how washed up he is, but Dan … a little miraculously, still wants to sign her to a music contract. And Greta, perhaps even more miraculously, decides that she wants to be signed.
The Psalm goes on, of course. The lament turns into a cry of faith. Check out verses 23 and 24:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
We don’t hear about God for the rest of the movie. Both Dan and Greta do some things that aren’t all that pious. And yet, you can’t tell me that these cries to the Almighty were accidents. There’s intentionality on the part of the moviemakers, here. A nod to God. Two lost souls are found again through amazing grace, and through a sweet sound to boot.