In a recent interview with the Guardian, Keira Knightley speaks of how dark her work had become; seemingly in an attempt to lighten things up she has turned to romcoms, Begin Again and Say When. The Imitation Game and Everest can’t come quick enough: these lighter projects let down this talented actress.
Say When and Begin Again deal with similar issues of self discovery and the need to move on, and Knightley does a good job in conveying a twenty something drifter. She is amusing, likeable, and relatable. Yet what makes a good romcom is not the central performance but the rapport between the characters which Say When does not have. Neither the actors nor the characters within the piece itself have the chemistry needed. When we are introduced to Megan’s (Knightley) friends despite having known each other for over ten years, they do not seem to ‘get’ or even like her nor she them (and for some reason they all look like gangster wives in a Scorsese movie); and her sappy boyfriend is much the same. It is hard to laugh at ridiculous characters when they are the best friends and boyfriend of the central character whose perspective we are trying to get on board with. Sam Rockwell and Chloë Grace Moretz play the father and daughter that help Megan realise that she needs to “drop out of the group” after laying low with them following her boyfriend’s proposal. This is where the film picks up but picks up in the way that a bird’s injured wing picks up when it attempts and ultimately fails to fly.
There is no ‘I’m just a girl standing in front of a boy’ or ‘You had me at “hello”’ scene in Say When. Nor is there a particularly funny scene that springs to mind. It could be commended for subverting the man-child cliché so popular in mainstream comedies if it were not for the dull way in which it does so. If you’re after a film exploring the difficulties of growing up, how sadly there is no guarantee you’ll be a successful adult, there are plenty of others out there that do it in a funnier, warmer, more intelligent way than this. If nothing else, we now know Knightley can do a stellar American accent.