Written & Directed by John Carney
Every so often a film comes along and surprises you. Sometimes it surprises you because the great people involved, or the great looking trailer hype it to the point that the final product is a letdown, a disappointment based on preconceived notions made before even going into the film. That is why I like to try to avoid trailers, even if I flock to the films of my favorite people in the business. Sometimes the film is just bad though too. But then there is the other side of the coin. Sometimes movies surprise you and it makes your day, your week, or even your month perhaps. Magic is captured from some place unimaginable to create a beautiful film that works in every way possible. Sometimes you can’t explain why, sometimes you try, and sometimes you just have a treat that you can keep coming back to time and again.
In Ireland there is this guy, see, he is a a “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy” (Glen Hansard). During the day he helps his dad at the Hoover repair shop and he tries to make some money by singing songs with his guitar. Then one day he meets a sweet woman (Marketa Irglova) who is an immigrant who is likewise trying to get by. The catch is that they are both in interesting spots in relationships, so they seem to be the perfect two to keep each other company as they try to figure out their lives, and make some amazing music along the way.
The simplest things in life are sometimes the best. Certainly complication makes things interesting and entertaining and the same can be said for films, but I am the kind of guy who sees beauty and perfection in the simple and imperfect, and this film is both. What is interesting about the film is that its two central characters are both played by actual musicians, not actors. And you know what? They aren’t great, but it works like nothing you’ve ever seen. Hansard and Irglova have great chemistry together and the way their broken and lonely spirits connect is beauty to behold, as is the music that results.
The film is short and much of it is just writing/performing the many great songs, among them the Oscar winner for Best Song, “Falling Slowly”. But in between these songs is everything that makes them great songs, and for that reason it is a great musical because it is able to use its strength, the songs, to compliment everything that is happening to these two characters and create an atmosphere and mood of romance, friendship, love, and beauty. Words do not do this film justice.
For the rest of my life this film will remain the single most important, and remarkable film discovery I have ever encountered. That is high praise, but what I mean is that it is one of those films that came when I was just getting into film and it surprised me. It surprised me because I had never heard of it. It surprised me because it was so simple, and so raw, yet one of the best films I had ever seen. It surprised me because I caught it for the first time on HBO, sitting in my living room after classes one day my sophomore year of college. I will never forget “The Guy” and “The Girl”. I will never forget Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. I will never forget Once because it is perfect in its own imperfect sort of way.