Now, this is a charming little movie. I’d been eagerly waiting to see this smart and romantic Irish film from director John Carney and it finally came to a Tulsa theatre. I loved every second of it and it’s one of my favorite films of the year. Once is full of low-key performances, great songs and real screen chemistry from two performers who aren’t really actors but who deliver a level of honesty that I’m not sure “real” actors could.
Made on a shoestring budget, Once begins with a busker (never named but played by Glen Hansard) singing his heart out on the streets of Dublin and having to deal with all the annoying people who distract or want to rip him off. It’s not an ideal audience to sing your personal songs with a tattered acoustic guitar.
Enter the girl (also never named, played by Marketa Irglova), a direct yet wide eyed, hard working Czech immigrant. The girl and the guy connect and are soon thinking of playing songs with each other and maybe, just maybe, falling in love. There are complications. In movies and in real life, there are often complications.
One of my favorite aspects of the film is the way it uses whole songs to reveal the character’s personality and inner feelings. Hansard and Irglova actually wrote and perform all the songs in the film, which furthers the intimacy on screen. Hansard, from the Irish rock band The Frames (Carney used to also be in the Frames for what it is worth), definitely has a heart-on-fire as it aches kind of style which Irglova nicely tempers his passionate singing with low-key harmonies and lovely piano. I thought the amount of songs might get repetitive but it’s in the songs that these two people truly belong to each other whether they can be when the songs end is another question to be answered.
The lack of money involved in this was a bit distracting at first—Carney uses long zooms for some of the street busking scenes so Hansard would act natural, as would the people around him as he performed, but it produces some shaky camera and focus issues when he does this. The interiors were also severely lighting challenged a time or two. I got used to this though and it actually worked in the film’s favor by the end. It gives Once a hint of realness that a glossy, too pretty film might not have had.
Once is highly recommended and will certainly be in my top ten for 2007. Great songs by Hansard and Irglova and a sweet, understated romance between two people who meet on the Dublin street, use music as a catalyst to their relationship and then…I’ll stop as I don’t want to reveal too much of the story—this is a good one here people, I sure hope people get a chance to see it in a theatre this summer to combat the gluttony of action films and sequels the studios shove upon us as Once is the perfect antidote.