In a summer
full of loud, hyperactive films, it is rather shocking to find a movie as
intimate, well-behaved and charming as this. Not only that, it is
downright subversive to make a film in which all of the characters, major
and minor alike, actually seem to be good, honest human beings.
storyline is simple. A busking musician (Glen Hansard) who plays his
battered guitar on the streets of Dublin, becomes friends with a poor Czech
émigré (Marketa Irglova) who had been a classical pianist back home.
They both have jobs (he works at his father's vacuum repair shop, she sells
flowers in the streets and cleans homes), but they connect on an elemental
level because of their deep respect for music.
is so low-key that the two main characters don't even have names, they are
simply listed in the credits as "Guy" and "Girl." Yet, despite the
fact that we never learn little niceties like names, we leave the theater
feeling that we have deeply connected with them on an intimate level.
this has to do with the wonderfully raw acting on display. Once's
stars are musicians, not actors by trade. Hansard, who fronts the
Irish rock group The Frames, does have a little cinematic experience -- he
was one of the members of The Commitments in Alan Parker's hit 90s
musical. Marketa Irglova, a singer who has recorded with Hansard, has
a sweet, unpretentious acting style that makes her completely irresistible.
The audience can always feel exactly what he sees in her -- both as a
musician and as a human being.
perhaps it would be too easy to make this a straight love story.
Once throws a change-up with this. While there is an undeniable
attraction between the two, their relationship is sweet, charming, slightly
flirtatious, but mostly chaste through much of the film. They both
have complications in their lives. She has a daughter to take care of
and an estranged husband back in Czechoslovakia. He has an ex he
hasn't totally gotten over. It is through music that guy and girl are
drawn to his songs and her belief in him gives him faith in his own talents.
They start working together, merging their talents and discovering each
other in ways that are shockingly intimate.
is sort of a new version of the traditional musical, the characters
regularly break into song and the lyrics reflect and comment on the action.
Yet, as musicians, it feels wonderfully organic; not a break in the dramatic
action like most musicals, but just an extension of it. In one early
scene when she is showing him her skills as a pianist in a local music
store. They start to play together and he ad libs the lines, "I don't
know you, but I want you all the more for that" -- well, that will melt the
it helps that -- unlike so many movies about singer/songwriters -- the music
here actually is pretty amazing. Hansard is an electrifying performer,
able to coax want, need and beauty from the lyrics. Irglova's voice is
also magnificent. A scene where she goes to a convenience store to
pick up batteries and we listen as a song births itself in her mind is
chilling in its simple wonder.
In the end,
the audience is rooting for them to get together, but even they know that
simply not the point. Once finds its passion in creation.
All other things in life are secondary.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2007 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: August 11, 2007.