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May 2007


By Wilson Morales


Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: John Carney

Producer: Martina Niland
Screenwriter: John Carney
Cast: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova

Running Time: 88 Minutes


What happens when the music in the film speaks more volumes than the actual dialogue, and yet they both compliment each other? You get something wonderfully magical. Unlike other “musical” films of the past such as the films that we have seen recently like “Rent”, “The Producers”, which have been hits from the theater world, the film “Once” offers something unique. It’s a film that’s about the making of music and how two souls are connected through their passion for music. This is a film that’s filled with honesty and warmth and amidst the big summer studio films, should be seen by those who really want to see something with substance and passion.

Set in the streets of Dublin, Glen Hansard plays a musician singing to make a living. While playing cover songs, he yearns to find the confidence to sing his own tunes. He’s also depressed about breaking up with his girl, who now resides in London. Taking an interest in his music is this young girl who sells roses. As their paths cross each other, she eventually lets him on her background. She sings too and practices on a piano in a music shop when it’s less crowded. As their friendship grows, she tells him on how sadden she is that the father of her child is back home and she’s here with her mom and daughter in tow. When he musters the money to put together a record, he asks her to help sing the songs he writes, while he gathers another band to help along. While each has someone that they are yearning for, there exist a connection that can’t be avoided, yet neither wants to open up new complications, so they let the music do the talking.

In a rare situation, the lead characters in the film are never given names, they are just a guy and girl who meet up, have a connection, and don’t want to lose it. Director John Carney wanted to make a musical, but not like the ones where characters break out in songs like a play. He’s excelled in bringing in two “actors” who the world doesn’t know from a film perspective so that the focal point is on the characters; Glen Hansard, who’s a singer with the Irish band The Frames, where Carney served once as the bass player, and Marketa Irglova is a Czech musician. When the two of them sing together like with the main song, “Falling Slowly”, you can feel these two characters were meant to find each other. Hansard and Irglova have a natural chemistry on screen together that you wish the camera didn’t move from them. When the band performs the song “When Your Mind’s Made Up” in the recording studio, this is as real as it gets if there are any musicians in the audience. The level of realism is what’s striking about this small gem. There’s no predicable moment here. Comparisons may be made of this film and “Brief Encounter” or more recently “Lost in Translation”, but “Once” stands out on its own. Through unlikely circumstances, the music is the beauty and focal point, while the characters are secondary. “Once” is romantic, natural, practical, and most of all, utterly charming.