Sunday, September 30, 2007


Set in Dublin, Once is a warm, funny and charmingly platonic romance about a street musician and a Czech immigrant who meet, make music, become friends and recognize that they could easily fall in love, but ... he has never gotten over the love of his life, who is in London, and she left her husband in the Czech Republic to make a better life for their young daughter.

The guy (neither one is ever named) is played by Glen Hansard, a singer and guitarist for the successful band Frames in Ireland. Director John Carney was previously in the band as well, before leaving to become a movie maker, and Markéta Irglová, who plays the girl, recently recorded an album with Hansard. So the music was real and terrific. After big budget biopics with actors mimicking musicians (see Walk the Line, Ray) it's rather refreshing to see and hear real musicians taking a crack at acting, and not vice versa.

Once may have lagged in places, but its low budget and inexperienced cast gave the film a raw and gritty realism, brimming with genuine emotions that ranged freely from curiosity, admiration, respect, lust, joy, embarrassment, awkwardness and anticipation. Carney tells a story of intersecting lives; about dreams, realities and regrets; about what might have been and what already is; and about perspective, consideration, responsibility and choices.

It was one of those movies that I enjoy more over time, and that I have thought back to again and again since watching it. It is refreshing to see two people connect, without the need for a storybook ending. And I prefer to see passion simmer on the screen and not boil over. I wish this kind of thing happened more than Once.