Once “Not A Review”
You would think that if you saw a movie that so thrilled and captivated you, its music, characters, story touched you so deeply (even when you have a bit of a tin ear for music like I do) and you thought that it was easily the best film of the year that you had seen so far, you would talk about it right?
But not me, for some reason that I could not fathom and seems just out of reach, I did not write about it. I have gone back to this movie often in my thoughts marveling at it and hearing the songs in my head, and before the fog of time completely obscures my recall of this gem of a movie, I better talk about it. I caught this movie at the Newark film festival almost 2 months ago and it has stayed with me for a while.
Once is a delightful Irish movie and won the world cinema dramatic audience award at Sundance this year and rightly so. The movie is brilliantly directed by John Carney and is a clear testament that a really good movie even one that is a musical does not need the slick, expensive production numbers like say “Dreamgirls”. Shot mostly on the street and indoors with a few scenes of the glorious Irish coast, the power of this movie comes from the two principal characters in the movie whose names are never mentioned. The “guy” is played by Glen Hansard, lead singer of the Irish group “The Frames” and the “girl” by Marketa Irglova a Czech musician he has worked with in the past.
The “guy” is a street singer performing songs for spare change, in fact when we first hear him sing he seems ordinary yet earnest as he strums his guitar singing a brand of pop that is full of songs of heartbreak and stylistically more like folk. He has recently broken up with his girlfriend a fact that is elicited out of him by the “girl” who happens to chance upon him on the street. She is a recent Czech immigrant, a mom and is living with her mother in a cramped apartment and she sells flowers and cleans homes for a living. She speaks English with an accent that I found adorable especially the way she added “yeah” at the end of some of her lines that seemed like part question, part looking for affirmation, her direct nature and inquisitiveness a charming contrast to his reticent openness.
His day job is helping out in his dad’s vacuum shop and he helps her fix her vacuum and makes a half hearted pass which is rejected very bluntly, and so begins the formation of a bond between two people.
On the way to the repair shop he tells her his story and sings about being "a broken-hearted
The girl is a musician too (she plays the piano) and the only chance she ever gets to play the piano is on a demo model at a music showroom. The guy comes to hear her, his guitar in tow and so enthralled with her playing that he asks her to team up with him on one of his songs. It was at this point that the movie completely captivated me. Watching them piece together the beautiful, heart tugging “Falling Slowly” is sheer magic and is a movie moment that you won’t forget.
(Here is a youtube video of the song from the movie courtesy of FoxSearchLight pictures). More videos at the movie web site too.
The camera does a great job of setting up the stage and letting the two principals work their magic thru their music and chemistry and uses the peripheral characters brilliantly (like the way the store owner notices the pair playing). There is an intimacy that is born of small, simple moments and I fell in love with these two characters at the same moment they fell in love with each other.
What makes this movie all the more impressive is that neither of the two are professional actors, which brings a welcome freshness and prevents it from being overtly sentimental. There is no big message in this movie, the
The movie has great music (that is unpretentious) and songs, combined with the great cast, this is one film I will add to my permanent collection and will watch it more than once.
Yes, this is a love story but one which will end happily but not like you expect it to, and as the New York Times film critic A.O. Scott put it so eloquently in his review “Some Love Stories Have a Better Ending Than the Altar”. I just loved everything about this movie!