There's only so much energy to go around in the universe, and what was spent on Begin Again's budget seems to have been suctioned from John Carney's artistic integrity. For all that his film bemoans the lack of genuine honest expression in contemporary popular music, it responds by coasting along its own middle-brow wave, an easy-listening easy watch that's redeemed by its subtler touches. Music is positioned as the soul of this film, which is sincere to a fault. What Carney substitutes for emotional depth are the kind of platitudes that populate all kinds of modern pop lyrics, which put his points across sweetly if simplistically. In themselves, the songs on Begin Again's soundtrack are neat and affable - in context, they obtain an extra dimension of super-cringeyness - which is a decent summation of the film as a whole. Carney leaves nothing be, plot-wise, following up every thread to sew it into place in a manner that's slick and endearing, in a base kind of way. There's no sense of ambition nor originality therein, though the cute coincidences and the air of gentle romanticism contribute to a feeling that Begin Again is more fairytale than fact. Carney's not aiming to encapsulate anything about the real world here, no matter how revoltingly non-conformist his penniless performers purport to be. As such, it's his refusal to capitulate to core rom-com norms, bolstered by casually clever work from his actors, that impresses the most at the time, even if Begin Again's aftertaste is that of a wholly less accomplished film than that might suggest.