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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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I saw the trailer for this on the internet, and liked the idea immediately: busker boy meets girl and they make beautiful music together. Conscious that this wasn't perhaps the first time that this storyline had been used, I wondered how they'd fare at steering past the obvious cliches, but I'd never have imagined they could be so wildly successful.

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.
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I watched this film on a recommendation from a friend.. it did not have obvious immediate appeal, and as I started watching it, it was clearly made on a budget, in a city I was unfamiliar with and with characters I was unsure about. This is no amateur movie though, and all of those concerns were blown out of the water as the movie progressed - the core desires and concerns of these people were universal, the city had both its own character and yet played an `everywhere', a recognisable inner city anyone could relate to. The songs were engaging because they were heartfelt, and always in the context of the movie. In short, it was heartwarming, thought provoking, surprising and lyrical.
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. Don't be put off by the musical label. Basically, it manages the trick of being both charming and grounded. If you like movies without any flash and bang, a movie about characters and how they relate rather than the plot they drive, then try Once. It's a movie you'll want to see twice.
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The stars of this delightful film are 'Boy' and 'Girl'. 'Boy', Glen Hansard is a music maker who sings on the streets of Dublin at night for money and recognition. By day, Boy fixes vacuum cleaners in his dad's shop. 'Girl'is Margeta Irglova, a Czech pianist who cleans homes and sells flowers for a living, She, too, is songwriter but rarely has time. She has a small young girl and mother to care for. She has left her husband and is tyring to make a new life. Boy has lost the love of his life, she has moved to London. These two people find each other as lovers of music and start singing together. They form a friendship. They spend a great deal of time together and beside friendship they form a bittersweet love story. She entices him to leave his day job with dad and find the money to start a musical career. Their songs are about heartbreak. As AO Scott says," "Once" is far from a conventional love story. It is, instead, the story of a creative partnership that develops by chance and that involves a deeper, riskier bond than mere sex ever could." This is a film to see more than once. It is a lively story of making a demo tape. What, you say, is that all there is? Ahh, yes and more. We are left with a sad-happy feeling from this film. The songs make a marvelously delicious soundtrack and will resound in your memories.

"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
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on 20 December 2010
Once is a near-perfect story. Here's how you'll know if you'll like it:

*minor spoilers within*

Do you like music? No, let me rephrase that. Does music possess you, move you, excite you and make you feel like nothing else? Andy Dufresne in the Shawshank Redemption understood. If the answer is yes, you will get this film.

If you like your music packaged and your performers manufactured and given an image to make their product sell, this might not be for you.

Once is about a guy (we never learn his name) who busks on the streets of Dublin when he's not helping his dad repair vacuum cleaners. By day, he plays familiar songs. People give him money because they recognise the songs. By night, he plays his own material. It possesses him. He lives and breathes it. He's a conduit for this powerful expression of emotion.

He's not an actor, he's a musician (The Frames) and had a role in The Commitments.

While playing one of the songs at night, a girl (we never learn her name either) sees him performing and gives him 10c. She asks if he'll repair her vacuum cleaner.

She's not an actress either. She's a musician from the Czech Republic. The two have a real-life relationship.

A friendship is formed. She can play classical piano. They play a song together. Will their relationship become a romantic one, or is music and friendship the only thing they will share?

She helps him. He helps her. Stuff happens. Wonderful stuff.

This film captures what it's like to be a musician. If you meet the first description I mentioned above, you could easily love this film. There are so many memorable scenes. I thought about it for at least a week after I first saw it.

It won an Oscar for best song, but don't think of it as a musical. It's not Hollywood. It's not Music & Lyrics. This is real.

It's shot on a digital camera so don't expect amazing PQ. It's decent enough though. Maybe 4/5. It doesn't matter. You won't care.

The Blu-ray is region free, although the special features are PAL and cannot be viewed on a US PS3.
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on 8 December 2011
This film is an absolute gem - bringing you into the world of two lonely people who are lucky enough to meet each other.

Glen Hansard has a gut-wrenchingly emotional singing voice and Marketa Irglova's is intoxicating, elegant and child-like.

This story will break your heart but leave you feeling somehow at peace with yourself.

The Blu-Ray picture is very clean and dirt-free - bear in mind this is not a high budget movie by any stretch, so it isn't perfect, but absolutely faithful to the (limited) theatrical presentation. The audio is very well mixed and free of distortion.

Try "Once" once, you won't regret it.
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on 26 September 2014
For some reason I had high hopes for this film but was disappointed at the complete lack of a plot. The songs were nice but sung in their entirety which was odd and annoying. And then, just when you thought it would get all romancey it ended, just like that.
Not recommended
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on 17 February 2009
This is a lovely little film built on a simple premise and all the better for it. There are no pretensions here - it's low budget and looks it and that is the point. The songs bind everything together and are cracking tunes if you like your folksy singer songwriter stuff. It's romantic and engaging and at less than 1:30 it's over before you know it. Beautiful.
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on 12 April 2013
I absolutely loved this film. The story is essentially a love story, though never conventional. It is intricately delivered through the most beautiful music, which refreshingly, is part of the fabric of the story and not the product of the director's arrogance. The characters are totally believable and the passion felt through the delivery of the music is tangible and throughout the film it is the things that are left unsaid, or the things that don't happen, that take this film to a deeper level.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are perfectly cast and create a totally believable story. The camera shots add to the effect creating a degree of intimacy between the watchers and the watched and it is as though we are voyeurs observing the journey made by both characters through their meeting. Each is the catalyst to change in the other and the beautiful lyrics and music are the wheels that transport them, on both their joint and very individual journeys.

There isn't one thing that I would change about this film. All the characters are a perfect fit and the scene where Hansard presents the finished product to his Dad at the kitchen table, is heartwarming and it is the little things that allow us to see the strength of this relationship between father and son.

This is a beautiful film and I just want to watch it again and again. I can't recommend it enough - oh, and don't forget the soundtrack from the film. I am currently either watching or listening and Glen Hansard is my new legend - how did I get to 47 years old and not know about him? (Try out The Frames too!)
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on 9 August 2015
This story has some rare special ingredients. One is the tenderness of the whole story and the way that it is played out, it is deeply moving in quite a few of its moments. Then you have Glen Hansard, who writes beautiful songs in his "day job", some of which are included, including the central song "Falling Slowly". Glen is not a professional actor, and before I say that he does a fantastic job of moonlighting as a thespian, I actually got the distinct feeling that he was actually just being himself, and had therefore little acting to do to carry this role off brilliantly! He comes across as completely charming and warm, melancholy in the appropriate scenes, hugely talented, and a wonderful human being to his very core. And to know how amazing a musician he is, it is almost certain that he has that talent because of his huge heart. (If you don't know his songs or that of his band The Frames, please investigate - maybe start with "Bird Of Sorrow"?) The film is a gem in so many ways, I will wear my copy out at some point I suspect.
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I love this DVD this is lovely this about a musician busker that meets up with a young lady who like him, has an interest in everything musical ..and when they meet its a beautiful meeting of the minds ... they sing together and strum their guitars together travelling and whilst in shops its quite beautiful, the guy sounds like David Gray you,ll see what I mean when you see the film .
His new found lady friend is very supportive and encouraging of his musical career and tries to push him to believe in himself a bit more , its a gentle caring beautiful film, that shows how music can truly bring two people together .
its a very gentle caring and heartfelt film expressive two love I believe can be found through a love of music .
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