Once (2007, DVD)
This motion picture, filmed in Dublin with two Sony handy camcorders for about $150,000 over the course of 17 days, may have been the Best Motion Picture of 2007. It was the best 2007 film I saw and that includes nearly all nominees in every category.
The film features two extremely talented musicians: Glen Hansard, lead singer of the Irish group "The Frames, and Marketa Irglova, a teen-age musical prodigy from the Czech Republic. These non-actors not only played the two leading roles but also composed nearly all of the music. And, though writer-director John Carney refers to his movie as a "musical," it should not be classified with classic Broadway musicals where the actors suddenly burst into song. In this musical, the songs fit comfortably within the story line.
The plot is simple. Yet Carney inserted delicate nuances throughout the film to keep the audience off guard. Hansard plays a struggling busker, i.e., street singer, who sings songs familiar to shoppers during the day and then tests his own compositions on the same streets at night. He also helps his father fix vacuum cleaners in a shop. A fairly new resident of Dublin, Irglova has an interest in music. Her father played in the orchestra in the Czech Republic and she took piano lessons. It turns out that she is a fine pianist and superb vocalist. However, like Hansard, she is struggling financially and survives by selling flowers and magazines on the streets.
A broken vacuum cleaner is the catalyst for the two to become better acquainted but music forges their friendship into what might be, should be, could be a "we'll be happy forever after" romance. The vibes are present and subtly intensify with each meeting. As it turns out, however, both the Guy and the Girl carry "baggage," one more than the other. Though perhaps not insurmountable, that baggage creates hurdles which impact upon the budding relationship. The audience is forced to participate in the moral dilemma confronting each of them.
By the time the film ends, the viewer has experienced a gambit of emotions enhanced by extraordinary music. "Falling Slowly" justifiably won the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It would be hard to imagine that someone could watch "Once" and not find that song haunting them for weeks. Yet "Falling Slowly" is only one of several Hansard-Irglova songs which demand replay. "If You Want Me," "The Hill," "Lies," "Once" and "All the Way Down" spark soft emotions familiar to anyone who has loved and lost. "When Your Mind's Made Up," "Say It to Me Now," "Gold" (the only song not written by Hansard and/or Irglova), "Fallen From the Sky," "Leave" and "Trying to Pull Myself Away" deliver different tempos addressing a variety of emotions. You might throw in "Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy" for comic relief. When the movie ends you feel as if you have just visited a secret room you would like to share with the world but do not know how to do it.
Though "Once" played only at select metropolitan theaters, the popularity of "The Swell Season" -- the name adopted by Hansard and Irglova for their touring singing group and two independent CDs -- soon should overcome unfamiliarity as an issue. They sell out every concert. To best understand the music, see the movie and realize why it won multiple awards, including audience awards at the Sundance and Dublin film festivals, the Independent Spirit Award, two International Film & Music awards and the plaudits of respected critics.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Watch This Over and Over - Not ONCE - A TRUE GEM.
This is a wonderful, fun and touching movie. Although the director described this as a musical at the screening at Sundance 2007, it would seem better to describe it as a secret passageway to another side of enlightenment that you would want to share with the rest of the world, but just don't know how. The main characters are blossoming musicians and their songs tie the movie together and tie you to them.
Glen Hansford stands on the Dublin streets at night now fleshing out his music, not because he wants to impress anyone of make money, but because he loves what he's doing when he's not doing what he hates to do, which is pine alone about his girlfriend he now loves to hate while he stands on the street and sings about his memories and his broken heart. The Euros don't matter, its the release of all the pain.
From the Sundance film guide: "A Dublin busker, who ekes out a living playing guitar and repairing vacuum cleaners for his dad's shop, meets a young Czech immigrant who sells roses on the same street. She likes his song, and what's more, she has a broken Hoover vacuum cleaner. They soon find themselves playing music together in a nearby music store (since she can't afford a piano, the owner lets her play his floor models). Over the course of a week, they form a musical rapport and, newly inspired, decide to record an album.
"Once" may loosely be classified as a musical, but its best to be called a "Soul Cleanser". Conceived by director John Carney as a "video album," it sports a scrappy, unadulterated naturalism. Carney took a risk in choosing professional musicians over professional actors, but Glen Hansard (of the well-known Irish band the Frames) and Marketa Irglova (a Czech singer/songwriter) are not only remarkably charming together but they're equally adept with the more melancholy shades (Hansard's lonely soul, stuck on an old flame; Irglova struggles to support a mother and daughter). Burdened and brokenhearted, their musical bond is the heart of the film and of their simple love and respect for one another.
Although the primary cast aren't actors as a first profession, they are very natural together and the film flows very well because of it. Everyone involved in this film has a great passion for music, and it is very infectious.
Great music aside, what makes this film special is how little effort it seems to exert. If it's possible to be blindsided by simplicity a soft touch, "Once" does it for most. Don't miss it if you want the release.
I'm giving this a 5/5 for total originality and it's lighthearted approach to life.
IF YOU LIKE MY REVIEW, PLEASE DON'T HESITATE TO LET ME KNOW BY VOTING. THANKS.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Simple idea, simply amazing movie
It's amazing how some of the best movies spawn from an extremely simple idea. It seems nowadays with all of the huge budgets and need for excitement many of the most popular movies are full of action, plot twists, and intricate stories. While this can be quite good, and often is, it's always great to take a step away from the generic hollywood movie and enjoy a simple plot that allows more time to focus on character development and dialogue.
This is exactly the case in the movie Once. It takes the simple idea of a boy meeting a girl in an interesting, albeit awkward situation, mixes in the fact that both of them have commitments to other people, adds a splash of shared love for the universal language of music, and produces a masterpiece. While any DVD that shows a man and a woman walking side by side often evokes the image of a chick flick, this is far from it. It's a journey into the minds of two extremely well written characters who offer us views into our own hearts and mind.
Experiencing extreme amounts of latent tension between each other, be it sexual or simply emotional, they express themselves through their musical talent, and the result is raw, emotional, extremely well written songs.
This movie has been compared to a modern day musical, but while it is not as musically driven as, say, Across the Universe, it does have its fair share of songs which fit nicely into the modern setting. They do not seem distracting and definitely do not take away from the plot.
As a result, the soundtrack is essentially a must.
Pick up this movie, then pick up the soundtrack; watch, listen, repeat.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful.
ONCE, The Third Best Movie of 2007
Once touts itself as "How many times do we meet the right person? ONCE" and that sets up a near perfect film. At times, what are they saying, at times (especially in the first 1/2) why this scene? But, if you can get through those two minute factors in this less than 1.5hr movie, you will be so rewarded by it's more than generous ending.
A musical without the show numbers and odd "breaking off into song and dance" moments, Once is a musical about musicians trying to make it so it makes sense when the two main characters break out into music either practicing in their respective bedrooms, or on a street corner or in the studio (one of the best scenes that'll surely bring tears and vigor to you, if you at least have a pulse). Two "nonactors" were used wonderfully to the best of their abilities and the same two musicians were used beyond and suitably through their abilities in this beautiful love story. Not much about their love for each other as the title may suggest, but about their love and adoration and respect for the craft of making music.
I won't go into details of plot synopsis, but, tell me, if you're looking for one of the best films of last year (according to many critics and the few, unfortunately, people who actually saw and loved this low-budget masterpiece), do you not have about 84 minutes to stay with this little gem that, in this writers opinion, was sadly forgotten at the Oscars (and almost every other awards ceremony) this year.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful.
Great independent Irish film.
Stars Glen Hansard, who is the lead singer of the Irish group The Frames. Surprisingly, he made the transition from musician to actor very smoothly- even though he played a musician...
This would be a great movie for any fan of The Frames!! The quality of the music performed in the movie and in the overall soundtrack was amazing ("Falling Slowly", a song from this movie, won an Academy Award)
It reminded me a little bit of another indie Irish film - Goldfish Memory.... maybe because it took me awhile to clearly understand the dialect??
Some laugh-out-loud moments.
Emotional development of the main characters was "spot on"
Has an ending (which I won't ruin!) that surprised me....