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Genre: Drama Music Romance (Ireland)
Starring: Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová
Directed By: John Carney (On The Edge)
Overview: In Ireland, a busker and a Czech girl share a passion for music that leads them to invest in recording a demo tape.
Once stars a couple of actors who haven’t really acted in anything before or since, and is directed by a man who’s only done a couple of things himself. So how did Once manage to be so important that it needs to be seen Before You Die? The easy answer is that this music movie won the Oscar for Best Song. The better answer is that the actors and their director are musicians first and Once is music before all else.
We begin by meeting ‘the Guy’ (Glen Hansard). He’s a tall and slightly morose Dubliner playing music on the street for change. We’re serenaded by his impressive Folk Rock while an Irishman pissing in a nearby alley proceeds to steal his guitar case. Such is the life of a lonely busker. Later the quiet, almost mousey ‘Girl’ (the Czech Markéta Irglová), meets him on the street and chats him up. His ‘real’ job is as a vacuum cleaner repairman at his dad’s shop. Well, would you look at that: the Girl just so happens to have a broken vacuum cleaner, as well as a passion for music. He plays the guitar, she plays the piano and together they spend the day getting to know one another, and playing music. Quickly their friendship grows and, in pursuit of his dreams with the Girl’s encouragement, they rent a recording studio for the weekend so he can make a proper demo tape.
Let me begin with several caveats: firstly, my musical tastes are particular. In my old age, I am getting more tolerant but I would never describe ‘Folk Rock’ as ever being in my top 5 genres. Second, most musicals, as a rule, drive me claw-my-face-off-crazy – luckily Once isn’t what I’d call a musical, it’s just a couple of people and their music, 15 songs in all. Thirdly, there’s ‘Romance’, the film genre that is slightly less toilet-worthy than Romantic Comedy. Those three warnings being given, I’d say that’s high praise for Carney’s film when I say plainly, Once is a great film with a great story and great songs. Period. It’s not too light. It’s not too heavy. It’s comedic without being a comedy. The characters are honest and though not complex, their current situation is more complicated – read original – than you find in a typical love story.
Shot on a small, portable and affordable Sony HVR-Z1, the video quality isn’t high-budget slick high-def. The total budget was about $160,000 US actually. I’d even go so far as to call the cinematography pedestrian compared to what we’re used to seeing these days, but it suits Once well, it really works; it’s ‘earthy’, it’s ‘indie’, it’s chic and hip without being cheap and hipster. Add 15 songs that are each enjoyable to hear, including the hit "Falling Slowly" that won them the Oscar, and you're sure to get along with Once just fine.
Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 9
Overall Rating: 82% (...Maybe Even Twice)
Whether it’s your first night out or if you’ve been together for years, Once is, in two words: Date Movie.