Review: Once

The first of three (so far) films to blend music, love, drama and comedy from writer and director John Carney, who most of course will remember from his most recent and wonderful film Sing Street (If you haven’t seen it, read the review here: Once follows a busker (Glen Hansard) and an immigrant (Markéta Irglová), meeting on the streets of Dublin and the week they spend together as they write, rehearse and record the songs that tell their love story.

The fact that for this film, Carney choose two people who were not primarily actors but musicians speaks to the quality of his films and how succinctly he makes them, knowing exactly what they should be. Although don’t misinterpret that as to say Hansard and Irglová don’t do a great job, they’re utterly convincing and the blossoming relationship between them is charming, delightful, honest and real. As we watch them meet, just casually in the street as their paths cross, its natural and simple as the chemistry begins to form. As they begin to talk more each day things become stronger but that strength is seen at it’s very best when they perform together, the fireworks of their chemistry are alight and it’s a joy to watch. It’s not the over the top, in your face, chemistry you might see in a lot of today’s romantic films but it’s all the better for it.

Of course the more obvious unusual choice was to use a documentary style to tell their story but it is effective, not only does it make them feel like everyday people, it makes their friendship feel more personal. It also proves the point that you do not need excess and extravagance to make a love story, not when you have something decent, real and enjoyable. A point could be made that despite it’s rather short running time, it can at moments become slightly repetitive or slow but it always picks itself back up again. The music is the real key, it’s inspiration and talent that are always fascinating to watch blossom from people who have yet to hit their big break, or been taken a chance on and seeing the hard work behind it.

By all accounts, it’s a rather brilliant idea making a film that’s simple and choosing a style that doesn’t require a great deal of extra expense, relying on quality writing and direction to make a film that’s genuine and entertaining. It isn’t quite your typical love story, starring atypical actors/musicians with an unusual style but it’s a straightforward, romantic story of human connection in the real world. Although Carney’s next project is yet to be announced, it’s certainly one to be on the look out for.

Verdict: 8/10

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