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Once

Once

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary With Writer/Director John Carney and Actor/Musicians Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova; Musical Commentary With Writer/Director John Carney and Actor/Musicians Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova; Making A Modernm Day Musical – Featurette; More Guy, More Girl! – Featurette; Trailer Real.

STEVEN Spielberg has described Once as a little movie that gave him enough inspiration to last the rest of the year. It’s high praise indeed but that’s certainly not misplaced.

John Carney’s film is an unexpected treasure, a breakout indie hit that took America by storm after landing the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s disarmingly simple yet emotionally complex viewing that boasts two fine leading performances and some fairly decent songs.

An unnamed Dublin busker (Glen Hansard) finds unexpected inspiration when he meets an unnamed Big Issue-selling Czech girl (Markéta Irglová) who is also a pianist. They start to write songs together in the hope of producing a demo CD and in the process begin to fall for each other.

Eagle-eyed film fans may recognise Glen Hansard from an early role in The Commitments but he’s since enjoyed musical success as lead singer of The Frames. As such, he brings a raw authenticity to the songs that he wrote, delivering each line with genuine passion and straight from the heart.

And while his co-star Markéta Irglová may be a newcomer to film, she quickly establishes herself as both plucky and endearing, striking a believable chemistry with Hansard almost from the very first moment they meet.

It probably helps that the two already knew each other from their music careers, having met while Hansard was visiting Prague and subsequently recording an album together in real life (The Swell Season).

But while this friendship undoubtedly provides a useful foundation, Carney’s screenplay gives them plenty to explore as both characters bear scars from past relationships that are part healed during the course of their relationship. It’s this happiness born from sorrow that really gives Once its strong emotional core and which enables viewers to become invested in the characters.

The songs, too, never outstay their welcome and merely add to the richness of proceedings.

Come the poignant but uplifting conclusion, you’ll be smiling with glowing appreciation while wiping away the odd tear. It’s a measure of the film’s quality that it even knows how to round things off in style.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD Release: February 25, 2008