Reviewed by: Jeremy Cabalona
|Featuring||Alaistair Foley, Catherine Hansard, Glen Hansard, Kate Haugh, Senan Haugh, Darren Healy, Gerard Hendrick, Bill Hodnett, Markéta Irglová, Danuse Ktrestova, Pat McGrath, Sean Miller, Geoff Minogue, Leslie Murphy, Wiltold Owski, Marcella Plunkett, Praghosa, Pete Short, Krzysztos Tiotka, Hugh Walsh, Mal Whyte|
|Distributor||Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.|
“How often do you find the right person?”
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “A modern day musical set on the streets of Dublin. Featuring Glen Hansard and his Irish band ‘The Frames,’ the film tells the story of a street musician and a Czech immigrant during an eventful week as they write, rehearse and record songs that reveal their unique love story.”
Odds are you haven’t heard of “Once.” It is a small movie filmed for about $150,000 in Ireland over the course of seventeen days. It slipped under the radar with a wide American audience, its widest release being just 150 screens nationwide. However, the excellent critical buzz has helped this film gain an ever-growing audience.
“Once” is about two things: music and relationships. However, don’t let that fool you, this is neither your typical relationship-driven film nor your typical musical. Instead, it’s a very special, personal film about the hardships and joys of life.
The story opens with a Guy (Glen Hansard) playing his guitar on the Dublin streets. Eventually his music draws a Girl (Markéta Irglová) to come talk to him. Very quickly an incredible relationship develops on the foundation of music. The Girl leads the Guy to a music store to play piano for him. It is there that one of the most honest and incredible moments in modern cinema takes place. The guy teaches her one of his songs, and in the solitude of the little music shop, they create truly beautiful music.
From that moment on, it is clear to the Guy and Girl that they have a connection. However, contrary to what you would expect, their relationship isn’t at all of a sexual manner. Instead it’s built on understanding, a passion for music, and a deep friendship.
Although we never know the names of the Guy and Girl, it doesn’t take long until we feel like we know these people. Because Hansard and Irglová play these characters with such honesty and likeability, they are truly a joy to watch. Neither Hansard or Irglová are actors, rather director John Carney decided that he wanted to cast, “Singers who can half-act, rather than actors who can half-sing.”
This resulted in the songs in the film being nothing short of breathtaking. Both Hansard and Irglová are accomplished musicians, and their talent and charisma absolutely shines through in this film. The musical scenes have many long, uncut takes, which are really remarkable. I would bet that after watching the film, many people will go out and buy the soundtrack, as I did.
This is director John Carney’s first film. For having such a small budget, the film, technically, is quite astounding. However, you will be able to see a noticeable difference visually from “Once” and a big-budget Hollywood film, but to me that just adds to the charm of the film.
As far as objectionable content, the only real issue to be concerned about is the language. The F-word is used fairly often (39 times), as well as the S-word (2 times), and two uses of the Lord’s name in vain. It is worth noting, that the F-word is never used in a vulgar or sexual manner. Also, keep in mind that in the first three minutes of the film, the language is considerably heavier than throughout the rest of the film. After three minutes, the language is toned down considerably. Also, at times, the accents of characters are so thick, you might not even notice the profanity.
There is no violence or sexual content. In one early scene, the Guy brings up the idea of “Spending the night,” but she quickly rejects him and leaves. He later apologizes for his behavior, and she forgives him. After that moment, the subject isn’t seriously brought up again, because it’s understood that their relationship is purely one of friendship. Additionally, in a dinner scene, people are consuming alcohol with their meal and smoking.
While this movie is rated “R,” this isn’t your typical R-rated film. In terms of overall content and story, people of all ages could enjoy this movie. That is why the multiple uses of the F-word seem so out of place, which is a shame because it really alienates younger viewers.
However, if you’re a mature viewer, and can get past the language, there is a lot to be commended in “Once.” Both the Guy and Girl genuinely care about each other and others, including their elderly parents, whom they live with. The songs in the film are really positive, and virtually free of profanity. It’s refreshing to see such an honest film that depicts the dreams and reality of such ordinary and relatable people.
Even if you don’t like musicals, don’t be turned away from this film. It’s not a conventional musical where characters miraculously all break out into song and dance. Instead, the music is completely natural. This film simply tells the story of these two people, and their lives just happened to be fueled by music. If you’re in for amazing performances, creative direction, and a batch of truly wonderful songs, “Once” will certainly not disappoint.
Violence: None / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: None
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.