'Can a Song Save Your Life?' doesn't live up to expectations

'Once' director John Carney attempts to create another movie about music, but he can't live up to his own legacy. 'Can a Song Save Your Life?' screened at the Toronto International Film Festival.

John Carney, director of the acclaimed music film Once, attempts to make a comeback with Can A Song Save Your Life?

As the title suggests, Carney’s new movie follows Once in genre but is less gripping and more disappointing.

Greta (Keira Knightley), a heartbroken struggling musician, and Dan (Mark Ruffalo), a recently fired music producer, predictably bond through music and overcome their difficulties in life during the process. 

Ruffalo portrays the ragged and lost middle-aged man impeccably and is possibly the greatest highlight of the movie. The smell of alcohol on him wafts off the screen, and his determination to produce the music he loves radiates through his performance.

Unfortunately, Ruffalo’s brilliance overshadows the other characters.


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Knightley tosses the corsets and attempts to transform into the talented girl-next-door artist trying to make it in New York City. However, her acting is a bit bland, and her vocals are equally flat.

Adam Levine plays the fame-driven boyfriend who cheats on Greta. Let’s just say he should stick to the singing and posing for photo shoots.

The soundtrack, composed by Gregg Alexander, is made up of somewhat similar scores, only differing with Knightley’s emotion-lacking warble and Levine’s signature high pitches. Pleasant soft alternative rock plays throughout the film, but there isn’t a particular song that stands out as a theme.

Aside from music, natural sound is another Carney mark, which could have been skillfully used with Knightley making her album in the streets of New York City. Instead, most songs were played in a clean background without ambience.

Despite its flaws, Can A Song Save Your Life? is nevertheless a nice ballad and love letter to the Big Apple. But Once is clearly a once-in-a-lifetime production, and Carney might have to realize that before taking his next step.

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