An unbelievably low-budget film filled with music and with amateur actors wins several awards with it’s extravagance, uniqueness, and mesmerizingly simple story. With the excellent director, John Carney, who is more connected to music than the world of the cinema as he is the formal bass player of The Frames, the Irish rock band who’s lead singer (Glen Hansard) plays the main character, the ‘Guy’. When this film came out, it shocked the Hollywood greats as it soon won at Sundance Festival, a Grammy Award, and even an Oscar. So what’s so captivating about this piece? As the genre moves to surface, we see a glimpse into it’s incomparability. It’s called an indie-musical, and it is in fact the only one in this field in Ireland.
The theme of the film is also interesting. The main characters are called the ‘Guy’ and the ‘Girl’.
Their names are not mentioned in the film, not once. The ‘Guy’ works as an assistant at his father’s vacuum-cleaner fixer shop, in the meantime he is out on the streets of Dublin, as a street musician, playing music mostly for himself. This is the opening scene, when he obtrusively shouts at a homeless who tries to steal the money he earned. In the next scene we are introduced to the ‘Girl’ (Markéta Irglová) , walking down the streets of Dublin, and noticing the street musician. Somehow she feels that his songs mean more to him than the bare desire to earn a few coins. They start to get to know each other, and as the ‘Girl’ is a songwriter-musician herself, she joins the new album recording with the ‘Guy’ and some other folks.
The plot in itself is not so special, however the label ‘musical’ is worth mentioning, as this film is not musical in the classic meaning, as there is no unrealistic link to the very real, everyday-life seeming happenings, but all songs are so much part of them, that it would even feel ’empty’ if the songs were not part of these scenes. For example there is the scene when the two main characters are sitting on the bus, and ‘Girl’ asks ‘Guy’ what happened to the girl he liked. ‘Guy’ answers by singing one of his songs, with just a guitar in his hand, perfectly tuning to the situation: ‘Oh broken hearted hoover-fixer sucker guy!’. What an answer – and most of the songs contain deep sub-levels of hurt, pain, and suppressed emotions, desires.
Once was released in 2OO6, and won the title ‘Best Movie Musical of 2007’, after the release in the United States. It’s a heart-gripping, realistic piece of art, with an enjoyable flavor, and an admirably amateur cast – but the musicality takes it to another level, when this does not even matter.