Once (2007)


(director/writer: John Carney; cinematographer: Tim Fleming; editor: Paul Mullen; music: Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglova; cast: Glen Hansard (the Guy), Markéta Irglova (the Girl), Geoff Minogue (Eamon), Bill Hodnett (Guy’s Dad), Danuse Ktrestova (Girl’s Mother); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Martina Niland; Fox Searchlight; 2006-Ireland)
“Gives off good vibes.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Irish writer-director John Carney (“On The Edge”/”Zonad”), once a bass playing member of the Irish band the Frames, strings this genial, uplifting traditional musical tale together with a heartwarming romance and pleasant original folk songs. Glen Hansard, of the Frames, is a twentysomething Dublin-based busker by night on the busy Grafton Street, where he plays the violin and sings his own folk tunes, and by day works in his kindly dad’s shop as a vacuum-cleaner repairman. While playing on the street he’s befriended by 17-year-old Czech immigrant Markéta Irglova, who is a pianist earning some bread selling flowers in the street and as a house cleaner, and for a week the two indigent young adults slowly get acquainted and try to find out if they are soul mates. There’s the hitch over Markéta having a baby girl and a hubby back in the homeland, who has not worked out as a marriage partner; while Glen had his heart broken by an Irish girl he loved who dumped him for another fellow and then split alone to London. Inspired by the perky Markéta, the laidback Glen enlists a motley crew of buskers to record with him a demo album and the heart of the film is watching these amateurs spend a weekend together trying to find their ticket into the big time and seeing if there’s a romance together for them in the future.

Despite cheap production values (was made for less than $200,000 and financed by the Irish Film Board) and inexperienced actors, the film is appealing because its leads are likable and act natural, and the music, if not great, is at least decent and vibrant. It never tries to be anything but the small film it is, and thereby sincerely gives off good vibes.

This unheralded small film became the sleeper hit at the Sundance Film Festival and won the World Audience Award.