Apr 9, 2012

Once [2006]

Written and directed by John Carney, "Once" is an Irish movie which tells the story of a man and a woman who share a love for music and their adventures into the recording business. What drove me to this film was the one of the songs of the soundtrack, "Falling slowly"- it won an Oscar and is always present in my playlist- so simple, sweet, yet powerful and melancholic; I love it!

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irgleva play the two main characters, with no names attributed, apparently- he is a busker and a part-time Hoover vacuums fixer, while she's an energetic immigrant who scrapes by everyday by selling flowers, whilst trying to feed her daughter and her mother.

The Guy, the lead, is just a man who can't give up the past and his cheating ex-girlfriend, constantly being held back by his obsession over his lost love who now lives in London; he even describes himself to the Girl as being "a broken-hearted Hoover fixer sucker guy". The movie is about his journey into the music business and it showcases his talents-he undoubtedly has a great voice, but honestly it is something you can see everyone, on every corner and on reality TV shows- his songs are nice, his voice is growly, but I didn't found anything special about him- would I buy his record? I'm not sure.

The Girl is a young woman who left everything behind in Chezch Republic and came to Dublin to provide a better future for her family. She is an interesting character, but very undeveloped in my opinion and rather unreadable- I couldn't actually connect with her, not even when she was around her daughter.

Their chemistry is palpable and you hold a hope in your mind that he forgets his bitter ex girlfriend and settles down with the Girl, but it never happens, and that's probably for the best- it avoids romantic comedies clichees. It's more than friendship, but it's not quite love, either.

What I admired and enjoyed about this particular script were the occasionally funny, original, yet seemingly real scenes; for example, the opening scene, where the Guy chases a heroin-addicted man who stole the money he got from busking; or his interaction with the Girl, and her brave determination to meet him again, after their brief discussion. I honestly laughed when the small loans manager tells them, at one point, "I wanna show you something" and at what happens afterwards.

It spiked in some moments, spoiling us with sweet moments and great music, but I was mostly underwhelmed by the amateur acting and the failure to make me feel excitement- the only scene that made my blood boil, to say so, was the one in which they played Falling Slowly, my song, and even that was rather bland.

"Once" seems like a raw, undeveloped feature, but it has some great moments- I guess the documentary feel to it, the amateur camera pinpoints the direction of where they wanted to take it, and I get it. Overall, I liked it, but it's not very memorable and the Girl just didn't do it for me.


  1. Great review! I never saw the movie but I love the song "Falling Slowely" it's absolutely gorgeous.

  2. I loved this movie, it was all about the love for music... but I also see why you found it just okay.

  3. Again another film that I have missed out on. I will get to it … EVENTUALLY.

  4. I loved the movie right up until the ending, then I hated it. It completely ruined all the good feelings the film had built up.

    Since you mentioned in your review what happens at the end, I guess it won't be a spoiler to mention it here, too. For anyone who hasn't seen the film, though, be aware that I discuss the end in detail below, so SPOILER WARNING.

    It's not just that I wanted to see them together, it's that them going back to their prior relationships makes no sense for either character.

    While it's never stated explicitely, her husband was probably physically abusive to her (you don't move to the other side of a continent, with your mother no less, unless there's something really strong driving you away.)

    As for the busker, it was shown that his former girlfriend was emotionally abusive. So at the end we're supposed to believe that these two people, who are perfect for each other, choose to let the husband come live with them (her) or to move to London to chase after the former girlfriend (him)?

    I didn't buy it at all. It felt VERY artificial, as if the filmmakers were deliberately trying to do an unhappy ending and that was the best they could come up with.

    As you can tell from this long comment (sorry) it still bugs me when I think about it. They could write a book titled "How to Ruin a Movie in Ten Easy Minutes".

  5. @Sati: The song is really amazing- I wish she would have sung more!
    @Mette: Yes, for musicians it might be a little heaven- I liked it, too, but I didn't love it!
    @iluvcinema: :) I know what you mean, don't worry, I have a huge list, too
    @Chip: I agree with what you said, especially in his case- it was clear that she didn't love him as much as he did, and that she took advantage, so I was sad about the ending, too. As for her, I didn't get the abusive thing, but at least you see them together and trying at the end. I hate movies who's ending ruin the experience for me, too, don't worry. Thanks!

  6. I enjoyed this movie but I haven't seen it since it came out. I initially saw it because I read a quote from Steven Spielberg about how it restored his faith in humanity or something (I'm probably exaggerating that). Love "Falling Slowly". I also like the sequence where the girl is walking around the city at night and then the piano business at the end. Very touching and heartbreaking.

  7. When I saw it couple years ago, I didn't like the story very much. But the music however stayed, and sometimes I still listen to the album. Falling Slowly is a beautiful song. Nice write-up, Diana.

  8. Seems like everyone LOVES this movie but interesting to see a slightly different point of view. I have not seen it yet but I'm willing to give it a shot.

  9. @Robert: I really liked the walking around at night sequence, as well! Thanks for dropping by!
    @Andina: Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. The soundtrack is good, but I am still stuck on Falling slowly :)
    @Ruth: You should, whenever you need a relaxing or sweet movie

  10. I really enjoyed Once.

    I have to tell a story. Someone told me that they had to turn the movie off in the first ten minutes because they couldn't understand the dialog and the swearing was too much.

    To this day, I shake my head.

    The soundtrack is amazing and is the films crowning achievement. I still listen to it.