Once Upon a Time there was a Guy and a Girl
A Guy (Glen Hansard - The Commitments) who fixes vacuum cleaners for his dad by day busks on the streets of Dublin by night it is where he meets a Girl (Mark├ęta Irglov├í) who loves his songs and singing. It is their shared loved of music which leads them to become friends sharing their past and their hopes with each other. And it is through their shared loved of music that they lay down a few tracks for the Guy to take to London with him.
If that sounds quite dull then you would be right as on paper "Once" does sound like an incredibly dull movie. But "Once" is anything but dull, it is simple and unpretentious, so simple that writer and director John Carney made the movie over the space of 3 weeks with just two digital camcorders and a budget of a mere 100,000 Euros. It is through its simplicity, its raw honesty that "Once" grabs your attention and keeps it charming you with this musical, yes musical, tale of friendship.
Now I said that "Once" sounds dull and to be honest it could quite easily have been dull because the story in reality is about two people who meet and become close friends through their shared love of music. That is it, but yet this simple tale of friendship is beautiful because it is so real from the Guy being older and slightly more cynical to the Girl being younger and having a can do attitude. You warm to this odd couple as they spend time together and in truth grow fond of each other, you warm to how they become a couple but not in the cliche romantic sense but a closeness which in many ways is greater than romance because they care for each other. To be blunt it is very hard to describe how good "Once" is for being simple because it is very much how you connect with these two people and how you warm to them which makes it such a touching and unforgettable.
There is of course the musical side and if you like Irish music or in fact the sound of a street musician who sings and plays out of passion then you will love the songs in "Once". There are emotional songs, powerful, angry songs as well as some humorous ones as the Guy explains to the Girl through song what happened to the love of his life. And they all work especially when you have Glen Hansard and Mark├ęta Irglov├í duetting, delivering the most simple but beautiful sound of guitar, piano and voice. The irony of this is that "Once" is a musical, the songs do tell the story but it is not a musical in the old fashioned sense but again a more simplistic, natural version.
Talking of Glen Hansard and Mark├ęta Irglov├í they work so well together that there is proper chemistry between them. You believe that Hansard as the Guy is more worn down by the world whilst Irglov├í being younger and with the Girl from Eastern Europe has a more positive get up and go attitude. In all honest you fall in love with them as a couple because they work so well together but yet their connection is a friendship. And whilst there are other actors in "Once" it is Glen Hansard and Mark├ęta Irglov├í who makes the movie so charming.
What this all boils down to is that "Once" is one of the best movies I have watched in a long time and not because it is big, action packed, dramatic or anything you usually expect from cinema but because it is simple, natural and beautiful. It is a movie which is just about friendship and that friendship, the performances of Glen Hansard and Mark├ęta Irglov├í as well as the music charms you from start to finish.