Once in awhile a movie comes along that can be truly aspiring. In the pool of big budget Hollywood musicals that have come out in the past few years, whether its Chicago or Dreamgirls or even the better odds of last year’s Todd Sweeney and August Rush, it’s almost difficult to imagine a musical without the glamor, where all the characters break out into song spontaneously and even sing their lines. Fortunately, “Once” is not that kind of musical, and it’s not that kind of movie.
Filmed on the streets of Dublin, the story follows a ‘Guy’ (names are omitted) who is a street performer who helps out his father at a vacuum repair shop. He meets a ‘Girl’ who sells roses on the streets and although she’s quite forward, he grows attached to her after discovering she can play the piano, with an impromptu music-shop duet forming the basis of their partnership. The ‘guy’ is originally heartbroken over a lost lover who resides in London, while the ‘girl’ is a struggling single mother with a Czech accent. Encouraging him to record his music, they set off on making that happen.
I can’t call it a love story, as their relationship feels more like a musical partnership. And it’s not about “making it big” nor do the characters sing their lines. The film is about the songs the lead character writes about heartbreak. And it’s truly hard to praise a movie like this where its biggest climax is that of a recording session in a studio, but that scene alone is probably the most inspiring thing I’ve seen or heard in a long time; in addition to one of the best endings I’ve seen for a film.
It is a natural film, and a natural story that looks and feels more like a documentary and has garnered some of the best reviews from both critics and viewers. Made for only $160,000 with people who have never acted before where there are no indulgences in the things that can only happen in the movies. To truly enjoy it, you might have to also love the genre of folk-rock music along the lines of Damien Rice perhaps, but I suspect even those who don’t might find something to really appreciate about Once. I don’t think I can even call it a musical, it’s more like a movie where the characters play music every once in a while.
In short, it’s a movie about finding a way, and a story about inspiration, the latter of which helped create one of the best film soundtracks. The film’s protagonist is played by Glen Hansard, the frontman of the Irish band The Frames and much of the music is similar to his tastes. “Falling Slowly” is a mellow tune that pulls on the heartstrings with ease, and evolves ever so passionately in yet another inspiring scene where the two main characters connect musically. The song just won an Academy Award. “When Your Minds Made Up” is a song that makes up the bulk of the film’s inspiring climax. But other tracks, sprinkled throughout, held define the character’s state-of-mind, including the heartbreaking “Lies” and “The Hill” as well as the prolifically angry “Say It To Me”. A lot of people can probably relate to at least one of the songs, myself included.
I can’t say enough about Once other than you have to watch it for yourselves. And once you do you’re likely to get the soundtrack in the same heartbeat.
p.s. thanks to pharmer for recommending it. never judge a book by it’s cover i guess.