Sometimes a film is made without pretention and becomes an experience more than just an amusement. The independent Irish film Once (2006) is just such a film. Directed by John Carney and starring the musicians Glen Hansard (The Frames) and Markéta Irglová, this experience provides a look at an honest and authentic meeting of two kindred spirits. The Czech immigrant (Irglová) approaches the street musician (Hansard) and the two wind up “making beautiful music together” literally.
Not quite recovered from a broken heart, the talented-but-stagnant musician is inspired by the married-but-separated immigrant who just happens to be equally talented and stuck in limbo. They soon discover a mutual desire and capacity to compose, play, and sing, though neither has manifested their abilities in a material way. However, the determined Czech is the spark that ignites the ambition within the Irish busker.
They team up, secure a loan to rent a studio, and gather a band of street musicians to record a demo. The film takes us on the journey of making this demo, which parallels the growing attachment of the “guy” and “girl.” Yet, though it seems these two could happily create ad infinitum, they each have past relationships and responsibilities to contend with.
Once is a bittersweet musical film with a charm and power that is punctuated by its simplicity. It is as unassuming as its characters who simply enjoy the chance to express what they love without expecting accolades. It is a film with no frills and no fluff. Instead, it offers real people with real lives, while excellent emotionally-charged music underscores their deeper feelings. It’s definitely worth experiencing more than once.
If you visit the Fox Searchlight site, you can listen to the entire soundtrack of Once for free through a streaming flash player. Additionally, you can view the trailer and the entire scene featuring the song “Falling Slowly,” which is nominated for an Academy Award. Speaking of the Academy Awards, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová are slated to play “Falling Slowly” tonight during the show. (Addendum: “Falling Slowly” won the oscar! Well-deserved).