Once

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Once
Review (9.5/10)
(By Rich Cline)

An exquisite combination of music and storytelling, this beautiful romantic drama really gets under the skin with its vivid characters and strong emotional resonance.

A busker (Hansard) meets a feisty young Eastern European woman (Irglova) on the streets of Dublin. He works in a vacuum cleaner repair shop with his dad (Hodnett) and is saving up to move to London to pursue his dream of working as a singer-songwriter, and also to reconnect with his ex (Plunkett). Meanwhile, the young woman turns out to be a gifted pianist living with her mother (Ktrestova), trying to save money to fly her husband (Haugh) over. There's a definite spark between them, and they're trying to channel it into creating beautiful music.

From the first scene, there's a sense of hope and longing and loneliness that grabs our hearts and pulls us in. It's a clever point that the singer can only sing his own songs at night, when there aren't many people around, because the daytime crowds only want to hear something familiar. But his music feels like a breath of fresh air. And this thought extends to the film itself: a blast of honesty in a medium where fake emotion is standard.

The film has an improvised, raw tone to it that draws on the open performances and makes the songs feel like they're pure expressions of the characters' inner lives. Yes, the music tells the story, but not in an obvious movie-musical sort of way. Writer-director Carney and actor-composers Hansard and Irglova are creating a completely new kind of musical here. And the result is drop dead gorgeous with quiet political commentary inside it.

Everything about this story feels tentative and realistic, awkward and sweet, never sentimentalised but thoroughly moving. Carney accomplishes this through long takes, subtle flashbacks, natural lighting and handheld camera work that put us right into the scene with the characters. And he surrounds Hansard and Irglova with side characters who are colourful and vivid, and often very funny as well. He's also not afraid to make both of his leads somewhat conflicted and unlikeable. This is simply one of the most breathtakingly romantic movies in recent memory. Savour every note.

Keyword : Eli, Hop, Anne, Drama, Musical, Political, Romantic, Music, Gorgeous, You, IU, Ant, Beautiful, Cleaner, Dream, Ex, Heart, Here, Liar, London, Memory, Move, Out, Pure, Take, Thor, Tron, Up, War, YES, Dub, FILM, Fresh, PIA, Bi, Ron


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