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Inspirational drama about two kindred spirits who find each other on the bustling streets of Dublin. One (Glen Hansard) is a street musician who lacks the confidence to perform his own songs. The other is a young mother (Marketa Irglova) trying to find her way in a strange new town. As their lives intertwine, they discover each other's talents and push one another to realise what each had only dreamt about before.
Winner of the World Audience Award at Sundance, Once starts out as a small-scale romance, like Before Sunrise, before arriving somewhere unexpected. An Irish busker (Glen Hansard, the Frames and The Commitments) meets a Czech flower seller (Markéta Irglová) while singing on the streets of Dublin. (In the credits, they're listed as Guy and Girl.) She likes what she hears and lets him know. Turns out she's a musician, too. They work on a few songs together and a friendship is forged. She lives with her widowed mother, who doesn't speak English. He lives with his widowed father, who owns a repair shop. Since he broke up with his girlfriend, the guy has been drifting, unable and unwilling to get his life in order. The girl encourages him to pursue a record deal, and the guy emerges from his funk. Then he makes a move on the girl, who rejects his advances. He's confused, but as he comes to find, there's a reason shes keeping her distance. Though Once is filled with appealing folk-pop by Hansard and Irglová (released on CD as The Swell Season), the movie isn't a traditional musical, but rather a more optimistic Brief Encounter. Filmmaker John Carney, Hansard's former bandmate, captures the real city--in all its affluence and poverty--rather than the picture postcard version. His beautifully shot film serves as a heartfelt ballad about all the underclass Guys and Girls swept aside amidst Ireland's economic miracle. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Top Customer Reviews
The hand-held camera makes you feel like you're watching a couple in the street, but they're so believable in their roles that you never suspect them of just acting. This is hard to do without some of the more obvious trappings of film, but it's totally compelling - just watch the subtle way Glen Hansard's character tries to master his confusion when he meets the girl's family in her bedsit. Or the way in which he teaches her his first song, which has to be the most accurate portrayal of this kind of scene I've ever seen. Or the final scene with his father, which appears to sum up the depths of a complex relationship with just a few lines.
Much of the film is given over to a careful attention on the music, with a generosity that's repayed many times over - there's a central, unbroken shot of her walking back from the corner shop late at night quietly singing to herself that seems to take a long time, but you realise that's just how it should be. To be sure, the instinct for avoiding cliche slips up sometimes: I wasn't surprised at the speed with which the recording engineer went from being cynical to impressed (though I was a bit surprised that the first song the busker decided to lay down was in 5/4, which is hard to dance to, at least).
But, especially considering the contrast with the previous film I saw Glen Hansard in (the disappointing Commitments, which had great music but lousy acting), I don't think I've seen such a beautiful piece of work for a very long time.
The two characters at the core of the story find a bond in their music - they share a piece of their soul through the music, and their time together helps each of them find their next step in life. And that is really about it, story-wise. The style has the hand held reality of Before Sunrise / Before Sunset [DVD], with a similar sense of apparent freewheeling improvisation - but like the songs, this is carefully crafted, and does not cheat on your growing care for the characters by having an unreal Hollywood style ending. To say hand held and `reality imbued' might make you concerned it is lacking ambition - far from it. The director has some real bravura moments, albeit low key ones, such as the hand held camera tracking a walk back from the shop listening to a song, oblivious to the world around her, or the final shot in the window.
Labelled a musical, I watched this as a drama about two people and their interactions, which just happens to have a lot of songs in it.Read more ›
"That's it, a bittersweet love story with ravishing Hansard music ("Falling Slowly" is a killer) and the ache of romance in its soul. Nothing about this mood piece should work -- the budget is shoestring and the actors are inexperienced. But Once brims with small pleasures that pay major dividends." Peter Travers
'Once' has an easy lovable charm that grows on us as we view this film.
Recommended. prisrob 05-08-13
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It's one of those films where you hold your breath, hoping it knows how good it is, and doesn't take a wrong turn.
It doesn't. Even the ending is the right ending.
Fast delivery disc was scratched but gave it benefit of the doubt. Gave it a clean but still kept skipping. DisappointedPublished 1 month ago by donna c.