Once

Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts

Starring: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova, Bill Hodnett, Danuse Ktrestova

Director: John Carney

A big hit at the Sundance Film Festival (where it won the World Cinema Audience Award), it’s nice to see such an unusual, honest and mature film, a sort of ‘alternative’ musical, packed with actor/musician Glen Hansard’s own rock ballads. Slightly cringeworthy on occasions but direct from the heart, this quiet sleeper is packed with catchy music, warmth, reality and talent.

Real-life singer-songwriter Glen Hansard from Irish band The Frames originally wrote most of the songs for ONCE, written and directed by his friend John Carney. With Cillian Murphy originally slated for the role, after gaining previous acting experience as Outspan in The Commitments, Hansard was the perfect replacement when Murphy dropped out.

Based in and around Dublin, the film follows ‘The Guy’ (character unnamed – played by Hansard) as he busks on the streets and works in his father’s vacuum repair shop to scrape the money together to record some songs in a professional studio. Czech immigrant ‘The Girl’ (19 year-old Marketa Irglova, also a real-life multi-instrumentalist and songwriter) notices him busking one day and their friendship grows over lunch and a broken hoover. Poignant moments and complications ensue.

The film really benefits from the friendly aura of the film’s main core of Carney, Hansard and Irglova, who all knew each other beforehand. Both leads are natural and warm, particularly Hansard, whose slightly hangdog but lively eyes are aflow with energy. Occasionally it’s a little cringey (for example the first time that they play together in the music store) but it has a real feel good vibe about it.

Warm, refreshing and honest, the complications of real life are brilliantly implicit and there’s no Hollywood ending in sight. More films like this would certainly not go amiss.

5 out of 6 stars

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