song

Sometimes you get your heart set on a film. You’ll hear about it or read about it, and believe it to hold great promise. It might seem as though it has been made with you in mind, especially if it’s built around something you love. So you seek these films out, and sometimes they’re messy, bumpy, awkward and rustic. Thing is though, even with all of those imperfections, sometimes you just don’t care.

This is one of those times.

CAN A SONG SAVE YOUR LIFE? is the new film from director John Carney, the man who brought us ONCE. It begins by introducing us to a record executive named Dan (Mark Ruffalo), who was once a groundbreaker in the industry, but is now a drunken, staggering shell of his former self. One night when he stumbles into a bar, he hears a girl singing at an open mic. The girl is Greta (Kiera Knightley), and she too is stumbling. She’s had her heart broken by her boyfriend Dave (Adam Levine), a rock star who is on a quick climb to fame.

When Dave hears Greta’s song, he hears more than just notes and words: he hears honesty and possibility. This film is the song of two broken artist trying to pick up the pieces, and perhaps reassemble them into something more interesting.

The film is officially listed as a work in progress, so take everything you read here with a grain of salt.

The film is a celebration of music – both for those that create it and for those that listen. That celebration is taken to the streets of Manhattan where Dan and Greta record tracks that incorporate the ambient noises that glorious city have to offer. While there are no songs quite as affecting as “Falling Slowly”, every one of them is joyous, warm, and authentic.

There are some bumps along the way – some silly moments, some implausible moments, and a few things that don’t quite seem in line with who these characters are. Thing is though, none of that mattered to me as the credit rolled. For every moment of convenience or curiosity, there were seven more where I had a goofy grin on my face as a lyric cut through, or a joke landed just-so, or the film brought together sound and visuals in a lovely manner. A lot of instances of the latter actually.

Kiera Knightley has a great dynamic with both men in this film. She works well with Dan as a pair of broken souls trying to pick themselves up off the ground. She also works wonderfully with Dave, both as his muse in the early going, and as his jilted ex later on. Both relationships are built around the joy of sharing music, and both go to some interesting places before the credits roll.

Perhaps I was sold the moment I read the title, since I believe there are songs that can do anything, including saving a life. Music is transcendent in every way; it knows neither time, nor language. It speaks to our souls and to our hearts and has the ability to make us feel a great many things we can’t otherwise feel. Sometimes they are poorly recorded, sometimes they are sung unconventionally…but often, those imperfections endear us to them even more.

A song very well may be able to save your life…the same way a movie can make your day.