Once (2007) Poster

(I) (2007)

User Reviews

Review this title
354 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Music Music Music Music
papaska24 January 2007
This is a wonderful, fun and touching movie. At a screening at Sundance 2007 the director described it as a musical, and it really is. The primary actors are musicians and their songs tie the movie together and tie you to them. Although the primary cast aren't actors as a first profession, they are very natural together and the film flows very well because of it. Everyone involved in this film has a great passion for music, and it is very infectious. It is one of the few films I have seen in 7 years at Sundance that received a standing ovation.

From the Sundance film guide: "A Dublin busker, who ekes out a living playing guitar and repairing vacuum cleaners for his dad's shop, meets a young Czech immigrant who sells roses on the same street. She likes his song, and what's more…she has a broken vacuum cleaner! They soon find themselves playing music together in a nearby music store (since she can't afford a piano, the owner lets her play his floor models). Over the course of a week, they form a musical rapport and, newly inspired, decide to record an album.

Once may loosely be classified as a musical, but it has a refreshing vérité inflection. Conceived by director John Carney as a "video album," it sports a scrappy, unembellished naturalism. Carney took a risk in choosing professional musicians over professional actors, but Glen Hansard (of the well-known Irish band the Frames) and Marketa Irglova (a Czech singer/songwriter) are not only remarkably charming together but they're equally adept with the more melancholy shades (Hansard's lonely soul, stuck on an old flame; Irglova struggling to support a mother and daughter). Burdened and brokenhearted, their musical bond is the heart of the film and of their love.

Great music aside, what makes this film special is how little effort it seems to exert. If it's possible to be blindsided by simplicity--a light touch, Once does it." — John Nein
256 out of 283 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The heart has reasons that reason knows nothing about
mjjusa-19 June 2007
I write these for friends and if you love movies you are a friend: I saw a movie last night that was so good that I have spent the last hour looking up information about it on the Internet Movie Data Base and related links. I have included the Fox Searchlight website for the movie at the bottom of this review so you can hear the music. So now I know that is was made in 17 days and at a cost of less than $150K and reflects a Dublin of 10-15 years ago when Dublin was much poorer and more working class.

And, I would be much poorer in life and spirit, and my heart, like most of us, covered in scar tissue from life, would not seem so vulnerable and new, if I had not seen this movie. A simple story of a street musician in Ireland, singing covers during the day for Euros, and his own music at night for cents. A verging on middle aged man, still living with his Da, repairing vacuums in a tiny shop and writing songs to his lost love in his tinier bedroom. Approached by girl, an immigrant, who loves his songs, understands the pain that gave them life, and soon they are in a music shop with the girl playing the piano and together they prove that art isn't produced from big budgets or green lit by ten vice presidents and that seventeen days and a pittance can make me get goose bumps just trying to write a review of what I saw in a dark theater with ten other people in a complex dominated by Shrek, Pirates, and Spiderman.

I knew a woman once who only read novels about unrequited love. What a wonderful phrase: unrequited love. Archaic, unrequited, love, universally known and unknown, and as a friend said about the movie and its songs: no great art came from happiness. But the movie isn't sad, it's pulsing with life and music and incident and the process of how art is made. I have always been a sucker for movies about how art is made: Shakespeare in Love, Topsy Turvey, as examples, but in both those, art that was known. In Once, on the streets of Dublin, an Irishman and a Czech girl, remind us of how, to my generation, the guitar was king, a guitar, bass, drums and piano a symphony orchestra, and there was no power like the power of rock and roll. In all generations, love sought, found, lost, and sometimes regained is the stuff that brings us to the theater, to the book, to the movie.

I'm in the midst of reading a book by an Irishman, a detective novel, the hero a reader, and the author uses the book to list books he likes: from one...'the body moves on, the mind stays and circles the events of the past.' This must be true of the writer/director.

You won't forget these people. I can't forget their songs. We should all meet, my movie loving friends, and talk about this movie in a bar in Chicago I know that has great music on the jukebox, cold cold beer, and is dark enough so we would all look good. Neil Young sang: only love can break your heart, Once asks 'how often do you meet the right person', and as fellow movie goers I ask how often can the right movie be made, shown in your local, and break/make you heart at seven of a beautiful summer's eve? It's the best movie of the year. Maybe of the last five years. But, I am not a dispassionate critic, I loved it.
558 out of 632 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A must see film!
bzimmer-126 January 2007
I too saw this film at Sundance, and we were treated to a live performance afterwards by the two main characters, who are actual musicians and not actors.

I can't say enough good things about this film. It is bittersweet and romantic, with great music (not Irish music, but the singer/songwriter type) as the two main characters collaborate on their songs and help each other become stronger and face the romantic challenges they both are suffering from. The end of the film is wonderful and Hollywood-cliché-free! I hope this film gets the distribution it deserves, because I'm going to be telling everyone to see it.
215 out of 240 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
see ONCE twice
mattman500027 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
If the original lead actor (Cillian Murphy) hadn't dropped out at the last minute this movie probably would have felt extremely melodramatic and clichéd, but Hansard's spot-on authentic portrayal is amazing mostly due in part to the fact that he isn't really acting but playing himself. There is also a beautiful scene involving the lead actress trying to write the lyrics to one of his songs as she is walking home from a convenience store that illustrates the creative process on a realistic level that I have never really seen done before on film. Amazing that this film was made for $150,000. The fact that they didn't have a lot of money actually, in my opinion, helps make the film that much better. There are elements of naturalism and realism working in this film on levels that are sorely missed in today's mainstream cinema. Anyone who loves music and/or learning about the creative process of writing will thoroughly enjoy this small gem of a film. The well-written script also surprisingly manages to NOT take the predictable road one might expect when making a film of this nature, which is an extremely tough task to begin with. You'll know what I'm talking about after you see it.
21 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
And so it happened once ...
moutonbear253 June 2007
From the moment ONCE begins, it is clear that the experience about to be had is unlike any you've had before. A busker sings for his dollar in the street. The quality of the image is grainy; the steadiness of the camera is shaky at best. The day turns into night and the song goes from bright to dark. The passion with which it is sung is almost overwhelming and suddenly borders on off putting. From the manner in which the busker is framed, it isn't clear whether anyone is there to hear his song but his fervor brushes skepticism aside and declares that the song itself and the satisfaction derived from singing it, outweigh the importance of having someone hear it. But someone is listening after all. A young woman from the Czech Republic stands transfixed before our busker on this Dublin street and a spark ignites the flame that gives ONCE its warmth. Writer/Director, John Carney, removes all convention from the movie musical and creates a film that reads like a well-written love song about two musicians falling in love with each other and the music they create together.

In the early 90's, Carney left his rock group, The Frames, to pursue a career in film-making. The Frames continued on without him and new lead singer, Glen Hansard, eventually took leave to search out new musical ventures, moving from Dublin to the Czech Republic. Here he met Marketa Irglova, a classically trained pianist, and they developed a project entitled The Swell Season. Though the two are not linked romantically, their meeting and the music that came out of that became Carney's inspiration for ONCE. During the week that follows their initial meeting on the street, the two artists who are never referred to by name in the film, learn to accept that they are inexplicably drawn to each other. Given the chance, a relationship between the two could become one that would help each other grow. He would make a great father figure to her young child and she would drive him to make something of himself. Though ONCE's tone is simple, these two characters' lives are not. He has a girlfriend in London he longs to be with but feels he cannot out of obligation to his father in Dublin, while she is still married to an estranged husband whom she is unsure she has a future with. The trick then becomes to remain in the moment with each other and never allow for their relationship to go where it naturally feels it should.

Albeit a modern approach to a movie musical, ONCE is not so modern that it leaves the music behind. Instead the music becomes the catalyst for love. She is first drawn to him by the sound of his song. He sings it with such passion that it gives her a direct view of his soul. It is not all who are able to show such vulnerability yet when the song ends, he trips over his spoken words and nothing comes out as it should. At first, she almost seems a nuisance to him. It isn't until he hears the beautiful music she can make with her hands that the glimpse of her soul captures all his attention. Theirs is a mating ritual carried out in song. When one sings or plays, the other listens. When one cannot express the proper sentiment in words, it is music that gets the point across. When the two find themselves alone in a local musical instrument shop, they learn what it means to sing together. In order to do so, they must truly listen to the sound of the other's voice and fall into the same pace and rhythm of their notes. Their voices, as it turns out, are the perfect compliment to each other. The harmony they create leads into a song that is itself a representation of the love between them, both fragile and pure.

The delicate chemistry between Hansard and Irglova is framed in such a stripped fashion that it only further serves to concretize the genuine sincerity between the two. Almost entirely hand held and lit only with natural light, ONCE seems less like intricate film-making and more like layered storytelling, or perhaps more appropriately, song writing. Put simply, ONCE is like a perfectly soft song played acoustically in a park; it seeps into your soul, soothing you as the sun beats down upon your smiling face, allowing for all cynicism to melt away while your reaffirmed belief in love is sung from your mouth.
30 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The moment all artists live for.
daveygandthekeyboard23 June 2007
Probably the one thing I would say about this movie that is even remotely negative, is that if you don't like the music, then you are completely out of luck. Otherwise… This movie is about a Guy (no name) and a Girl (same deal) who meet on the street while Guy is busking, a side gig from his day job as a vacuum cleaner repairman. The two form a bond through music, as they jam together in a music store, then ultimately they go through a weekend recording his songs before he goes off to re-unite with his lost love. Trying to explain this movie to someone who hasn't seen it, it just seems like a movie about nothing, 'cause the plot is so spare. But everything felt true--the dialogue, the way the two musicians relate, the way it captured the feeling you get when you see something you've created become real. This movie totally won me over after the recording session, when it is early in the morning, the studio technician and the band go out to do the "car test"--seeing if the songs still sound good on inferior speakers. It is at this point you feel this "seizing of the sword" moment of triumph for Guy--this is what he has worked for, this is what he has created. It is a moment that all artists live for, and this is the reason I will go see it again.
27 out of 28 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
What a lovely film!
delphine09014 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Sometimes I can see why someone would "hate" a film that I love. This time I just don't see why anyone would dislike this film.

It's a simple, unpretentious, lovely film. I've recommended it to several people (male and female) and they've all loved it.

The soundtrack's lyrics hint at a very different film, with more of the predictable sex/possessiveness/anger/painful character arc thing that we usually see, and perhaps people are missing when they criticize this film.

I found it refreshing NOT to see those things, to know perhaps that a decision is wrenching but without the melodrama. And even more refreshing is a script that never once beats us on the head with information, but lets us "hear" the characters not only in the songs (in fact the lyrics are not "on the nose" as they generally are in musicals but instead simply add nuance, flavoring the script) but in what they don't say, and in the choices they make without exposition and explanation.

I didn't notice any of the technical flaws people have mentioned. Any lack of "polish" in the camera work only added a hint of realism to me, as if it were my eyes instead of the camera watching this vignette, as a warmly invited guest. Little time is spent showing us unnecessary views of the city, or vistas to long after. It could be anywhere in the world, because the world is reduced, for a few days, to what's important to these two people, and we fall for them as they fall for one another.

The film does have an ending, it's not left up in the air (contrary to some comments here) - but it may not be the one everyone wishes for, or has been conditioned to expect.

More than one person, including folks commenting here, have said the same thing: What a lovely film . . .
25 out of 26 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Excellent, gorgeous story
lisadaly26 April 2007
I have to say I loved this film. I went to see it with a Japanese friend, and she loved it too.

So the plot wasn't full of 'save the world' ambitions and the good guy wasn't a millionaire playboy, but who cares? It was a gorgeous straightforward film about two people meeting at a certain time in their lives.

I read a quote recently about someone who'd seen the movie and came out wanting to hug everyone they met - and I totally agree. I cycled home humming the tunes and feeling like I haven't felt from a film since seeing 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'. I know, I know - totally different films - but the zen-like feeling after seeing them both...

From a Dublin dweller, it was fun to watch the geography, as the film makers played with the locations in that certain venues were on the same street - yet it looked like the actors had to walk through town to get to them. It definitely hindered the 'who do I know in the public street' shots moments! But was interesting, as helped make Dublin be a different city to what the residents would be used to.

My recommendation is to just go and see it if you're on for seeing something uncomplicated, feel-good without being too mushy, comedic moments that everyone can relate to and some singer-songwriter music thrown in.
145 out of 169 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Wonderful Little Film
tjunderwood31 July 2007
At the persistent urging of a friend, I saw "Once".

Rarely am I compelled to write a comment about a movie, let alone yearning to see said movie again - immediately.

I have this sinking feeling that "Once" won't be around much longer in theaters (God knows, we need every available screen for "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry") so give yourself a treat: go see it!

Be warned...you may be so affected you'll buy the soundtrack, check out all the related YouTube videos and won't be able to get it out of your head.

Inspired, magical.
109 out of 127 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This is a film you don't want to miss!
lcrawfor227 May 2007
On a ten scale, "Once" is a 12! It just proves that "magic" doesn't necessarily require a huge budget; A great script and inspired acting can carry the day. The setting ( Dublin,) is as true-to-life as you could hope for, and the characters are all a natural fit. My wife and I were sitting there for an hour and a half with this comfortable grin on our faces. (And please understand, I generally hate musicals, but this one works!) Irglova and Hansard are perfect for the roles, the camera work is magnificent, and the total experience gives one hope for the future of film. (You just need to go "Indy" to find the really great stuff.) Be sure to see "Once, and don't go alone; take somebody you really enjoy being with.
21 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
jbowman228 July 2007
The chemistry between the lead actors (two people I've never heard of) is what makes this film a treat to watch. Marketa Irglova (whoever she is and wherever she came from) has a screen presence without a doubt. The scene in the music store where she and her street musician acquaintance (Glen Hansard) first make music together is magical and worth the price of admission in and of itself.

This is a sweet, poignant movie that is simple yet somehow captivating to watch. Maybe I'm just a sap for love stories, but the sound track that goes with this one is good enough to help carry the story and make us really care what happens to these people. Marketa and Glen make the music, and we are caught up in their moment.
13 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A touching and honest film
harte9 April 2007
I own a movie theater on Cape Cod and recently saw this film on two occasions at the New Directors Film Festival in NYC. I met John Carney ten years ago at the Golway Film Festival where I was part of a team which was reviewing film projects. John had a five minute clip of a feature he was working on "November Afternoon". I stayed in touch until he finished the film. He sent me a tape it just blew me away. "Once" like "November Afternoon" is a unique film experience. The low budget feel fits the story and the music blew me away. He captures a small slice of Dublin Life, spent the summer there in 69, that seems so real and honest. Glen and Marketa bring great strength to this story and a realism that is seldom seen in American Cinema. If you want to get in the mood for this movie then get a copy of Glen and Marketa CD "The Swell Season" five of the songs are in the movie.
131 out of 159 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The best Irish film ever
Termin811 April 2007
Don't listen to the comments left on this page by idiots who don't get the film Once is a beautiful film, in my opinion the best Irish film ever but a great film overall. Made with an almost documentary realism on the streets of Dublin (this film shows how DV is not just a fad) this film is a modern day musical but the kind of musical where scangers eye up the camera, where musical numbers take place in dirty old music shops and flats. To me this film says something about Dublin , about immigration, about music but not in a worthy annoying "a Tigers tale" way. A masterpiece with great central performances and amazing music.
242 out of 302 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"A Magical Film of love, music, song...and a Hoover Vacuum!"
screenwriter-1417 May 2007
ONCE is a film to see and cherish for the magic of song and music combined in the setting of Dublin for a young man and woman who meet and who make wonderful music together. The only issue is she's married to a bloke in another country. But that doesn't stop them for creating a wonderful piece of music which will stay with them forever.

John Carney has directed and written a brilliant film which tags at your heart and makes your feet dance all at the same time. "Guy and Girl" are tremendous in their parts and the humor and passion they bring to their music. Dublin is such a great location for this film and it resembles London in so many of its blocks of buildings. The bond is also wonderful to see between father and son and the encouragement which the father gives his son.

ONCE gives you a time in your life when you meet your soul mate who brings the music to your heart you have always dreamed of...as well as a Hoover vacuum-"who knew?" See ONCE, because "once" you do, you may come back for more.
99 out of 120 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
"Once" thrills
Solipsisticblog10 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Once", the Audience Award Winner at this year's Sundance Film Festival, is a gem of a movie. I had the pleasure of seeing the film last night at the Tivoli Theater with the film's leads and director in attendance. Hoping for great word of mouth, they are touring around the country with their film answering audience questions and performing songs from the film.

"Once" is a musical but not as you might expect. There are no scenes of passerbys bursting into song and dance as the leads fall in love or swelling string sections as the lovers embrace. Rather, director John Carney fashioned a stripped down, more "realistic" musical where the songs emerge from the leads as they perform on street corners, for friends, and in recording studios. Carney informed the audience that the film was made in only seventeen days and for only $150,000. The leads are professional musicians, but have never acted before. No one will mistake this for a big budget feature, but in the rawness of its presentation and performances the film gains extraordinary power.

Carney's film--which he also wrote--is a love story about waiting and deferring gratification. It's about the struggle of making ethical decisions when caught up in the fever of new love. Musicals are frequently larger than life odes to seizing the day and falling in rapturous love, so much so that you can't help burst into song. Carney subverts our expectations of the musical and presents a film about quiet, reserved lovers-to-be who struggle with the consequences of what a rapturous affair would mean to those they love.

But don't think the movie is a bore. Rather, it is a spellbinding and fantastic romantic film. Glen Hansard, lead singer of The Frames, stars alongside Czech singer and Dublin resident Marketa Irglova. Their musical performances are raw and powerful. Their harmonies are otherworldly and fantastic. The music is reminiscent of Damien Rice. Hearing them perform live after the film, I realized how little the recordings we hear in the film have been altered. Fans of Rice and singer/songwriter performers will enjoy this film.

After the multiplexes have beaten you in to a pulp striving to entertain you this summer, you would do well to seek out the quiet, haunting "Once". It sticks with you and has you humming on your way out of the lobby. It'll certainly make a bracing tonic to the sure-to-be-overstuffed "Hairsprapy".
11 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Just saw it after dying to see it at Sundance - Wonderful Music, Even Better Story!
She-she15 May 2007
After hearing about this movie while at Sundance, I was sad I wouldn't get a chance to see it.

Luckily it's gotten distribution!!! I just saw an advance screening in LA, and it's a wonderful movie with strong performances by both the main characters who are terrific musicians.

If you've ever wondered if a movie could capture the true essence of performance, the awe of listening to something amazing and feeling it move you, it's here! This isn't a hackneyed musical with clichés, but a carefully captured story that feels more true than any other romance I've seen unfold.

Go see it!
117 out of 144 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Perfecton doesn't have to be perfect
Chris Knipp1 June 2007
Once is about a young Irish busker with a torn guitar and a raft of achingly felt songs about a girlfriend he lost the year before. He works in Dublin at his dad's Hoover Repair Centre. One day as he's playing on the street a Czech woman who sells roses and cleans houses comes up and starts to talk to him. She's somewhat cool but she's also disarmingly honest. The dialogue seems understated, offhand, but the words seem to come from the heart. She plays the piano (and later reveals she's written some songs herself) and they get together to make music. Both are suffering from love affairs that went wrong. He longs for her but she keeps her distance. The simplicity of the acting makes the characters seem real, like everything else in the movie. It doesn't try too hard. It trusts its material, and it works.

The recording session they wangle with a group of other buskers (two guitarists and a youthful drummer) is a metaphor for this whole film. These people know nothing about recording, but they've got good material and the initially skeptical engineer winds up acknowledging that they've made a beautiful thing.

Once's transitions are a little awkward sometimes and its images aren't fancy, but the story moves you without having any sentimental payoffs. Kitchen sink film-making: it works if you believe in what you're doing. And have something to work with. The core of Once is the music. It's what they have to work with. The studio recording session has the good feel of things coming together: it's so strong and uncalculated-feeling, it makes the studio scene in Craig Brewer's Hustle and Flow look self-conscious. In Once the sound of the music speaks without special need for dialogue or close-ups. The real love story of Once is the love of musicians playing together. Few movies perhaps have captured any better that warmth and pleasure of making music with others.

People have said this is a musical. If so, it redefines the musical as some American musicals have done recently, especially Spring Awakening and Passing Strange. What makes the idea fly is that it's as if the young man and the young woman can't express what they feel for each other, and the only way they can get their emotions across is to burst into song. But the songs are their songs, not some composer's. It's all perfectly organic.

Perfection, it turns out, doesn't have to be perfect.

Starring Glen Hansard of The Frames and Marketa Irglova.
24 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
special in every way
sadpuppynow27 May 2007
I was lucky to have caught the trailer for "Once" during a movie preview. This movie hasn't been advertised as much as all the Hollywood sequels coming out. It was the music in the trailer that captured my attention. Music is indeed a powerful thing. It was then, that I told myself I had to see it.

After seeing it, it was everything I thought it would be and more. The story is simple and it's been told before, but its execution is one that sets this movie apart from others. It's not a typical musical, but more like a long music video. It's a story that illustrates a moment in time that we can easily relate to.

This movie has moments of humor and it's songs are so telling. Hansard is charming and Irglova is candid. Both are very talented musicians turned actors.The story shows a different kind of love, a friendship that provides confidence to steer the characters in the right direction for each of them which isn't always easy to do.

The movie is sad, funny, real, everything that life is and it gives you hope. It's about a moment that happens in life that may not come by again or may not last forever, but it just might have the greatest impact on you. I know I'll be watching "Once" again.
15 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The way a musical should be, contemporary and cheese-less
meglome1 May 2007
As I've posted previously I don't really like musicals, never have, generally waayyy too cheesy for my tastes. But in the absence of something else that drew our attention we went to see Once. We were in the Cinema anyway so why not. We went mostly, I suppose, as we'd seen Glen Hansard and the Frames playing before and they were great so we thought the movie couldn't be too bad. At the end of the day we both really liked this movie, not too sentimental and the music which is written and performed by the two main characters is excellent. It irks me to see other Irish people in here with such negative views, it really seems like its something personal towards Glen Hansard. I don't know the guy whatsoever but this is about the film which is worth seeing.

I'd seen Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova live in Christchurch cathedral in Dublin which in itself was pretty different. I'd only been inside the cathedral once before pretty much as a tourist. During the gig he gave a solo performance which stands out in my mind as the best I've ever seen, just him and an acoustic guitar. I've seen A LOT of bands big and small so that is really saying something. If you get a chance go see them.
108 out of 139 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Once will give you a unique experience and realism that we normally don't get out of Hollywood
the-movie-guy15 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
(My Synopsis) A Guy (with no name - Glen Hansard of the Irish band Frames) is singing his heart out on the streets of Dublin for tip money. One day a Czech Girl (with no name - Marketa Irglova) stops to listen to the Guy play his music. She is very impressed by his songs and she asks if he wrote his own music. The Guy says that he writes and loves to play his own songs to himself even if the street crowd wants to hear other music. It is nice to earn tips, but that is not what his music is all about. The Guy lives at home and helps his father repair vacuum cleaners, but he has a dream of becoming a recording star. His girlfriend of many years has just left him and is now living in London. You can tell what this has done to his emotions, because it is being reflected in his new songs. The Girl who happens to have a broken vacuum cleaner also has a musical background of playing the piano and writing songs. Their music brings them together and the Girl begins to help the Guy realize his dream. They begin to share their music and their feeling for each other. They put together a band with other street players and rent a recording studio for the weekend to record two demos. This could be the start of a new and wonderful life.

(My Comment) The storyline is almost like a reality TV show. The people are not actors, and they are naturally doing things in their lives that they just want to do. This is not your typical Hollywood movie as to the ending and especially the costs. The writer/director John Carney made the film in 17 days for an unbelievable $130,000. John Carney did not have the expensive steady cam cameras, but he used hand held cameras with telephoto lens so he wouldn't have to get a permit to film in Dublin. You will notice the movement of the pictures and hopefully it will not give you motion sickness, because it gives the film a raw feeling which in turn makes it feel real to the audience. Hansard and Irglova are charming together and very supportive of each other. All three people were at the screening that I attended, and they had a Q&A session and sang 4 songs after the movie. The three have been friends for many years. That is why I said that the movie is like a reality TV show, where friends got together to make music. Hearing them perform live after the movie, I recognize that it was the same performance that I saw on the screen. Now as for the music, personally, I liked some of the songs, but most of the music was not the type of music that I would listen to on the radio. Overall the film will give you a unique experience and realism that we normally don't get out of Hollywood. (Fox Searchlight, Run time 1:25, Rated R) (7/10)
88 out of 116 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Close to Perfect
Willie-1211 July 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Who would have thought? Out of all of the movies to come out this summer, the one with the least amount of special effects (make that no special effects), the one with no A-list actors, the one with a director I, and I would venture to guess that many others had never heard of, would be the best movie of the summer, and quite possibly the whole year. I am not exaggerating. This is not hyperbole here. "Once" is as about as close to perfect as you can get. The story is simple, and yet it is the simplicity that makes it so good. The actors actually seem like real people. This is the type of movie that almost anyone can relate to. All of us have had that one relationship in life, where if it had only been another place, or perhaps another time, things would have worked out perfectly. All of us have had those experiences in life where we know that we just had one of the best times of our lives, with someone that we really connected with, and yet we know that the time will not live on, and the person will go out of our lives just as quickly as they came in. "Once" captures that realness almost perfectly. It is the type of movie that will make you feel better about people. And it may just make you feel better about yourself.
16 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
What bitter sweetness this film stirs
Monotreme023 November 2007
Warning: Spoilers
What bitter sweetness this film stirs within the deepest bowels of any viewer! And how startling it is that such a small, miniscule piece of work that stirs such emotions, that big, bloated epics many times fail to stir? Production value is low but the almost documentary-style film-making only adds to the realism. The movie was shot mostly on video and with many extended, uncut long takes quite unlike the complex, operatic set-ups we've seen in the films of Martin Scorsese and more recently in Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men, but rather simple, static shots simple depicting our two characters interacting. Most of the film is just that – the two characters interacting – but such incredible depth of emotion derives from these interactions that it is truly inspirational. The filmmakers' and actors' capturing of total and utter realism is so convincing, that the film might as well be a documentary feature about two music lovers, following them from their chance encounter and throughout the course of a whirlwind, impulsive week of music-making. But what's truly remarkable is the emotional rainbow this documentation provides.

The key word in this film is simplicity. The plot is as simple as it gets – a chance meeting and a week of music making. Production value is almost non-existent and the cinematography is obviously simplistic and minimalist – except for one set-up involving a crane, which seemed a little out of place for my taste. The acting is extremely minimalist and realistic; we sort of get the feeling that our two stars are very much like the characters they play in real life, much like the same feelings evoked from Richard Linklater's Before Sunrise/Before Sunset, in which we know Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy donate so much of themselves into their characters.

Many people have labeled this film as a modern-day musical. Well, at first I resented this statement, as all of the music in the movie is performed on-screen within the context of the film. We don't see any breaking out into song-and-dance in this film; it is all the real, actual music these two people are making on-screen and in real time. But later on I thought about it a bit, and eventually reached a conclusion that may explain why people describe the movie so. In the classic movie musicals, the songs all deal with advancing and portraying the plot. In Once, though, there is a twist: Since there isn't actually much of a plot to talk about (although the characters DO have a well-rounded arc), the songs all deal with advancing and portraying the characters' emotional states. Listen to the broken-ness of Hansard's earlier songs written about his girlfriend in London. Or to the sad longing of the lyrics Irglová writes to Hansard's as-yet-unwritten melody that he leaves her on a CD player.

If the songs pack a big emotional punch, the rest of the movie packs a much more subtle emotional resonance. I think this may just be one of the saddest, truest and most beautiful cinematic depictions of platonic and entirely unrequited love. Many people have said that they left this film with feelings of elation and levity. I myself found the ending extremely melancholy. It's great that both of our characters at least try to get back together with there long lost loves, but it is sad that they don't get to see each-other for one last time. It is sad to think that even if the Guy goes back to London, he may not be able to mend the wounds with his girlfriend. It is sad to think that if the Girl couldn't get along with her husband the first time, chances are that the same troubles will arise the second time around. It is sad to think that if Hansard isn't himself a stadium-filling musician in real life, his character in the movie probably also won't be one. And it is great, of course, that the film ends where it does, in their parting, and doesn't linger on what happens after the Guy arrives in London and submits his demo tape, for example. The film begins and ends in the relationship between the two people and leaves it at that. But how sad it is that when the Guy asks the girl if she loves her husband, she replies in Czech so that he won't understand "no, I love you." And it is saddest to think that all the beautiful, happy and good things that happen in the film can happen only once in a lifetime. As the film's tagline says: How often do you find the right person? The answer lies in the film's title: Once. Many other questions can be asked: How often do you get a chance to go from being a Dublin busker to recording a professional demo tape? How often do you get a loan from a bank teller that just happens to have a passion for what you're trying to get a loan for? How often do you get to secretly rip off your father's beloved motorcycle for the day? The answer to all the questions: Once.

Shot on a shoestring budget, it's films like these that promise a very promising future indeed for independent foreign film. Devoid of the weights carried by Hollywood productions and the need to contradict those weights fulfilled by American independent film, the independent cinema of the world is free to draw inspiration from whatever source it requires, be it the human psyche, random surrealism or Irish folk music. Once in particular succeeds so admirably in all its fields not only because of the stunningly beautiful music it features, but also because of the simplicity and the anonymity of its characters and events. Can this happen to anyone? Yes. How many times can it happen? Once.
12 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Just play…Once
jaredmobarak13 June 2007

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 on screen 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 hand-held 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 film-making 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 roller-coaster 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.
12 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
See "Once" many more times than once.
meechiganman18 June 2007
Let's say you're watching a movie and you are loving it and at the end you cheer and tell yourself that "this was an awesome movie!" and then you realize, as the credits are rolling, that the 2 main characters are just called "guy" and "girl"--their names are never mentioned the whole movie! That is the beauty of "Once", you are so drawn into the story and interplay between the guy and girl that you don't need names. Each character is defined by who they are to each other and those in their lives! Glen Hansard (singer of the Frames) does a great job of playing the heart-broken street busker/vacuum repair-man who pours his pain out in his music. The guy is so appealing and likable that, even when he has a momentary lapse of reason and acts like an arsehole, you forgive him because you know it is so out of character for him. Marketa Irglova plays "the girl" with a mix of winsome charm and worldly smarts that makes you like her from the instant that "the guy" (and the viewers) meet her. The girl is a czech concert pianist who is estranged from her husband and making a living in Dublin with the odd job here and there. She misses playing her piano, but cannot afford to buy one for herself, so she has to make do with playing occasionally in a club or in a music shop with a nice, understanding manager. When they meet, "the guy" is taking a break from his typical popular street-music set to perform his own music, a song that is both smart and soulful, but probably not popular enough to elicit any money. Their first conversation is funny and revealing, and serves to set the tone for their future interactions. There is a chemistry between them, but also a very sweet reluctance to go beyond the bounds of their relationship. "Once" is directed by John Carney (also of Frames fame) and shot by Tim Fleming, and the film style is mainly pseudo-documentary with a lot of hand-held shots and on-street settings that take place in the midst of the real world. I do have to say that Dublin and the seaside look great and there are more than a few great landscapes that will take your breath away. There are no big stars and only a few actors who might be recognizable by eagle-eyed Irish/UK movie buffs. "Once" is ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC, Glen and Marketa write their own songs and perform them in realistic settings, with nobody just breaking out into song in the middle of a scene, and without any cheesy dance scenes or spotlights. The soundtrack is catchy and soulful with some very heartfelt lyrics and easy to enjoy music. "Once" could almost be a documentary of how Glen (and Marketa, and Tim) hit it big; they are (were?) on tour in the US. John Carney does a masterful job of telling the story in a very appealing manner while avoiding a lot of the clichés that infest so many movies today. And yet, there are many familiar scenes where you almost know what is going to happen, but are still pleasantly surprised when it does. Especially touching for me was the scene where the guy plays his completed demo for his dad, nervously awaiting a verdict; great stuff! "Once" is the kind of movie that isn't widely publicized or splashed on the TV or radio at first, but then there is such acclaim from those who have seen it that pretty soon everybody is jumping on the bandwagon. 2007 is (so far) are really good year for movies, but I'd venture to day that "Once" is one of the best of the year. "Once" is worth see more than once. Tell your friends, neighbors and acquaintances to go see "Once", they will thank you for the tip ( and you will be able to go with them).
15 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The Best Film of the Year!
markyritchie19 December 2007

A movie that really is hard to put into words, but demonstrates that you don't need a multi- million dollar budget, A-list Hollywood actors/directors and special effects to make an incredible film. It does what any good movie should do, tells a story honestly and drops the viewer right into the action so as to feel you're there and care about what's happening.

In this case it's the story of a young man and woman who wound't otherwise have anything in common other than she has a busted vacuum and he works at a vacuum repair shop, or so it seems, until you discover that these two ordinary poor people actually have the same passion for writing and playing music, neither having the capacity to do so in the way they would like. For him it's playing songs in streets and his tiny apartment for anyone who'll listen but no one who can understand. Enter a woman who hasn't been able to outlet her own musical creativity due to a young child and failing marriage and you get an explosion of musical and romantic creativity.

John Carney's film is really an album on screen, and I have to mention that it is the music that drives the picture, but it's not a musical in the vain of people randomly breaking into song that drives normal people crazy (because no one ever does that in REAL LIFE) but he shows you where GREAT music really comes from and how it's created. Never once are you thinking 'Oh great there breaking into song again' because not only is the music incredible (mostly written by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) but it's given real time and they don't cut songs short but let you listen as if you were there in the store, studio, apartment, bus or wherever.

The movie just has so many perfect little scenes and touches like the banker who wants to play them a song of his own when they ask for a loan, or the scene when they finally get to record and it's abundantly clear that no one knows what they're doing. Lastly I have to mention that it is the treatment of their interest/relationship that is the best part of the film. It's refreshing to see romance done right, without sex or over the top cheesy melodramatic dialog, the type of crap that only happens 'in the movies', here it doesn't need to be said because like true romance it's not spoken, it's felt. Carney avoids the horribly overwrought sexploitation of male/female relationships in modern film and actually respects these two characters enough to end the movie right, with the viewer walking away just like the two smitten musicians...wanting more of their music and of each other.
7 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed