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Once is a film I watched yesterday, as my girlfriend lay around sick after she got home from work. I wanted to watch 12:08 East Of Bucharest, but she was not awake or feeling well enough to pay attention to subtitles. Which was fine. Once was in English. Only, once it began, I still needed to put on subtitles until I got used to the accents and the Irish brogue. Since most of the movie is music, the subtitles became fairly funny. There would be instrumental parts that still, apparently, needed subtitles, so the screen would say “note note”. Well, it would have little pictures of musical notes, but I can’t find that emoticon. I suppose this was for the hearing impaired who may watch the film. My advice here is that this film is NOT good for the hearing impaired. Most of it is music, and it’s the music that carries the movie. The main character is played by Glen Hansard, the vocalist and guitarist for the Irish rock group, The Flames.
The Flames must be very good, and I plan to pick up one of their albums to find out, because Hansard is fantastic in this movie. Not just as a musician and singer and songwriter, but as an actor as well. He is effortlessly charming, and totally believable as a man hurt by a former lover. His co-star, Marketa Irglova, is terrific also, and the chemistry between the two is palpable. Once is as simple as movies get. There is a connection between two people, they come together through music, and they do some stuff. That’s it. There really is nothing more to the film, and the songs aren’t Bob Dylan-earth-shattering material. But the songs are perfect for the film in that they are simple, they drive the story on their own, and the movie gives them plenty of time to be felt. Each of the songs in Once is very good, and each one is given it’s full three minutes of screen time, in what could easily have been cheesy Patrick-Swayze-on-the-beach-type 80s montages. But they aren’t. It’s the simplicity of the shots along with the simplicity of the music that works. There is one long tracking shot of Iglova walking down the street for four minutes while the song plays. And it really works.
The ending frustrated my girlfriend a bit, but then, so did the rest of the movie. I give her a pass on that one, she’s sick. The film is so full of goodwill, it’s so charming and heartwarming, that no healthy person could really hate it. For those of you who have seen Lost in Translation, Once is as close to that film in tone as any other. It is not as good, but few films are. It is funny, it’s sweet, and it’s immensely enjoyable without resorting to the big finale where they record an album and land a gig, and then the screen fades out as they play Wembley Stadium or anything pretentious like that. There is also none of that irritating will-they-or-won’t-they get together garbage that comes from sitcoms like Friends and such. It just is what it is, and what it is is terrific.