Movie review: Once

Once (2007) Dir. J.Carney Dis: Fox Searchlight Pictures

When asked about life in Dublin by some of my foreign colleagues and acquaintances I would usually refer them to the works of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde for a historical account of how Dublin acquired its culture and unique way of life. To bring them up to date I would reference the likes of Roddy Doyle’s The family TV series as well as The Barrytown Trilogy and his darker works such as Paula Spencer. To understand the Dublin vernacular the 2005 film Intermission is a must.

Once is a charming low-key movie that has astounded critics and Hollywood heavyweights. Written and directed by John Carney and set in Dublin, it is a gentle and moving drama that stars musicians Glen Hansard (of popular Irish rock band The Frames) and Markéta Irglová. Collaborators prior to making the film, Hansard and/or Irglová composed and performed all but one of the original songs in the movie.[

Hansard plays an unnamed, thirtysomething Dublin busker who at any given opportunity sings and plays guitar on the famous Grafton Street, in order to make money and to fill the void left by a previous break – up. Irglová plays an unnamed young Czech immigrant flower seller who is drawn to the music, voice and passionate performances of the Busker.

The film documents their increased attraction to each other and the impossibility of their love becoming a reality against the realism of their individual situations.

Both actors being realivly new to the world of cinema (Hansard’s only previous role was that of Outspan Foster in the Commitments) tackle their roles with a restrained nervousness similar to that of a couple falling in love. Their amateur acting abilities are a perfect fit for conveying the awkwardness, frustration and restraint of a couple who so deparatly want to be together but know that they can't. Therein lies the strength of their perfomances as can be seen, displayed on their faces as they both connect through their passion for the music they are playing.

The music for the film is a mixture of original compositions by the two leads and previous recordings by Hansard with his band The Frames.

A particular highlight is the song “Falling Slowly” in a scene where the two leads realise their musical and emotional connection.

Once, is a perfect realisation of a modern Ireland which embraces our everchanging cultural diversity and shows the lifestyles and experiences of foreign nationals living in our Fair City ( I am referencing a particularly amusing homage to our number one soap opera contained within the movie).

The film has achieved major acclaim, receiving the World Cinema Audience Award for a dramatic film at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Legendary filmmaker Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying "A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year."

Rent this movie as soon as possible because it is inspirational. I waited to long to see it and since watching it have not been able to stop singing its haunting songs in my head.

David Morrin, 10 December 2007.

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