Saturday, August 4, 2007


Once is a musical; but don't worry, it's not Hairspray, and it's not Rent. Think more along the lines of Lost in Translation, except the lead characters sing. Once is a beautiful and heart-breaking story about a struggling musician, and a cleaning woman as their quests for themselves and for love bring their paths to cross. The music serves as a unifying theme between the characters- and no fears, there's no dance numbers.

Glen Hansard, lead singer for the Irish band The Frames, stars in the unnamed male role. He also wrote the music for the movie. He is a vacuum cleaner repairman by trade, but plays on street corners and records his own music at night. The fuel for his music?- a lost love of course. Markéta Irglová stars as the cleaning woman separated from her husband, and living with her mother and daughter. The two of them happen upon each other one day and follow a week-long relationship through music and self-discovery. Outside of a few glimmering and hopeful moments, they're relationship never becomes romantic.

Director, John Carney, used to be a member of The Frames, before he moved into film. Carney paints some amazing scenes in an almost documentary feel. The movie is shot completely with hand-held cameras (even tremendously complex crane shots were still hand-held). One amazing scene has Hansard and Irglová playing a song together in a music store. As the story progresses, and climaxes with the two of them recording an album with a band of street musicians, the soundtrack just gets better.

Like Lost in Translation, many complain that nothing happens in this movie- well, a little bit more happens in Once. This isn't important though. It's all about character development, which can sometimes be much more interesting than plot development. You really get the feeling of who these people are, and what they're feeling. In many heart-wrenching scenes, you genuinely feel like these characters are real. What does the title mean? It could be any number of possibilities. Is it one chance to reach your dreams? I'm more inclined to think that you're true love only comes once in a life-time. Who that is in the movie is up for even more debate.

This really is a wonderful movie. The characters are perfectly developed, and the soundtrack works so well it still brings tears to my eyes a week later listening to the CD. This is a fairly simple, low budget piece of cinema, but the characters and the music combine to create a near perfect bit of film-making.

Watch the Trailer


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