So, since I was a freshman, I've written for one of my school's student-run newspapers, often writing their movie reviews. Recently I wrote a review of Once for them which was just posted on their website, and you can read it here. Enjoy!
I would be far from the first person to complain that "there are no new ideas in Hollywood," but it certainly seems that in a time when sequels and adaptations take up the bulk of the marquee, much of what audiences watch in theaters ends up being totally unmemorable. Studios can drum up a death rattle of buzz for their movies at DVD release time, but within a month or two of each film's opening audiences generally have forgotten what exactly made them want to go see it in the first place. As this year's blockbuster season blends into the romantic comedies of fall, there seems to be one movie that has made an indelible impression on movie audiences: John Carney's Once. For a film advertised largely through word-of-mouth since its premier at a few European film festivals in the summer of 2006, Once has stuck around surprisingly long.
So what has made Once so memorable? It is the simple story of a vacuum cleaner repairman (played by Glen Hansard, lead singer of Irish rock group The Frames) who spends his free time busking with his love-worn guitar on the streets of Dublin. While pouring his heart out into the empty night air, he meets a Czech girl (the lovely Markéta Irglová) selling flowers and other miscellany, and they begin a friendship. When he discovers what a talented pianist she is, they begin writing songs together which reveals a truly deep connection between the two.
The plot of Once takes place over the course of a few days, and for a film so imbued with emotion, it is refreshing to see the inexperienced actors convey such strong feelings with little explicitly laid out for the viewer: what other films portray through unnecessary sex scenes and unrealistic monologues, Once portrays more vividly with subtle glances between the two lovers. The love story is tempered by the complications of their realistic living situations - family, past infidelities, finances--which only adds to the charm. The film's philosophy on love is a refreshingly honest one. It reminds us of an indefinable gray area stretching across romance and friendship, and that true beauty can be found not in one's destination, but in one's journey.
The real heart of the film is its music. The relationship between the leads would be meaningless if not for the music that they play together. When they first play a duet shortly after meeting, it is possibly one of the most intimate love scenes ever captured on celluloid. Anyone who has ever understood how music can connect with the soul will revel in that scene long after the movie has ended.
Though the low budget direction and cinematography are warm and charming, I wonder if the soundtrack is enough of a footprint of the film that ardent fans will have no need to purchase the DVD once it is released. Since watching the movie in June, I have listened to the soundtrack almost daily, if only to remind myself of the awesome power of music and film.