Film Review: Once

Glen Hansard is an Academy Award–winning songwriter and vocalist/guitarist for Irish group The Frames and one half of folk rock duo, The Swell Season. He is also known for his acting, having appeared in the BAFTA winning film The Commitments, as well as starring in the beautiful musical, Once.

Directed by John Carney, Once is an Irish musical film which stars Hansard as an unnamed busker, Guy. In the streets of Dublin Guy meets a Girl (Markéta Irglová), another struggling musician who becomes persistent in questioning him about his music. After learning that she is a musician too, he teaches her one of his songs, “Falling Slowly”, and over the following week they write, rehearse and record songs together, getting to know each other along the way.

Whilst their flirtation continues, the Guy finds out that the Girl is married and has a child. When he asks if she still loves her husband, she answers in Czech “Miluju tebe”, which unknowingly to him means “It is you I love.” The Guy continues to write about his ex-girlfriend who lives in London where the Girl encourages him to move back to so that he can win his girlfriend back and pursue his musical career. But before he does, they go into the studio to record together, as a musical and potentially romantic connection begins to kindle.

Although the film was shot for only €130,000 it has been very successful, winning many awards including the 2007 Independent Spirit Award for best foreign film. Its low-budget shows but it does not affect the raw emotion that pours from both Hansard and Irglová.

This soundtrack is undoubtedly the best part of the film as the lyrics of the songs performed play a huge part in telling the story, adding more intensity to the compelling and real-to-life nature of the film and its success. Hansard and Irglová’s song “Falling Slowly” received a 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Song and the soundtrack as a whole also received a Grammy nomination.

Collaborators prior to making the film, Hansard and Irglová composed and performed all of the original songs in the movie. In their real-world context, as when the Girl rehearses her lyrics for one of the Guy’s songs, “If You Want Me“, as she sings to herself whilst walking down the street, the way in which the songs are performed is stunning and the songs themselves are beautiful.

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