That’s it, one word review…Wow.
This is the movie of the year for me right now, and quite possibly will stay that way until next January. With what has to be the simplest story I’ve seen onscreen in a long time, it gets everything right. Once is a perfect little gem, both concise and powerful in a small but infinitely memorable package. Literally, a guy and a girl meet on a street corner in Dublin while he plays guitar for loose change. This chance encounter sets into motion a series of events that will bring kindred souls together with the strongest bond of love and friendship as they both try to reconcile with themselves and give their lost loves a second chance. You can’t portray the unfathomable link love holds people together with better than this. These two are not lovers in the traditional sense, but neither will ever be able to forget the friendship they forged and how they helped pull each other out of their respective emotional ruts. They are lovers of the mind and soul.
I’ll admit that I am a huge sucker for brilliant music in film. Whether it be a musical like Moulin Rouge!, or a story that is enhanced by its soundtrack like The Royal Tenenbaums, or a visually stunning piece set to a haunting score as in The Fountain, I cannot get enough. The power that an assault on the eyes and ears simultaneously has can’t be beat. This entire film is shot with handheld camera, many times subversively, (for instance when our lead Guy and Girl go to a diner for lunch, the camera stays outside looking in, but you can tell the sound is coming from within by tape recorder as the background noise is very noticeable). The graininess and intimate quality shown by this style of filmmaking only makes you feel the realism that is pouring from each frame. These two actors are singers themselves and accomplished musicians. Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová are truly and utterly remarkable. Their interactions are never forced or fabricated, this film feels like a behind the scenes documentary on the creation of an album.
Once is definitely a musical above anything else. Half of this film takes place with songs either being sung in real time or being played over a montage sequence. Rather than use the words of the music to tell the story, writer/director John Carney uses them to set-up the emotional core and existence for our two leads. The words they sing are meaningful to their characters and how they react after uttering the lyrics can be both joyous and heartbreaking. He must be credited with having the guts to stage many musical moments in single takes, letting the performances and the music take over the scene. To go from the sheer happiness of laying down a track in the studio, to the sorrow-filled moment of Irglová unable to finish singing the song she wrote for her old love, back to the comradery of finishing their demo is a rollercoaster of emotions that sum up the whole film completely. There is not a misstep in sight. From the fateful meeting at our start to the bittersweet perfection that is the final scene, you don’t get many opportunities to see original work like this in cinema anymore.
Once 10/10 | ★ ★ ★ ★
 Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard in ONCE. TM and ©2007 Summit Entertainment LP and Samson Films Limited. All Rights Reserved.