Movie Review: John Carney's Once (2006)

I fell in love with this movie last week. Once is a celebration of music, but it's also a celebration of friendship and love and the many forms it takes. A person can come into your life for just a short time and have a lasting impact. You might only meet them once, but sometimes that's all it takes.

Our story happens on the streets of Dublin. He (Glen Hansard) is a vaccuum repairman, who works in his father's shop. In his spare time, he writes music and performs it on the streets for spare change. She (Marketa Irglova) is an immigrant from Czechoslovakia who sells roses on the street. One evening, she hears him performing a song. No one else is listening. She loves his music, but lo and behold, she also has a vacuum to repair.

The plot is sparse, simple, and the perfect platform for some terrific songs. The two meet, walk the streets together, and she ends up showing him the piano she plays on. Next thing you know, they are singing one of his original songs together. As they make music, they fall in love with the connection they share. Both of them are lonely people. He has an estranged ex, and she has an estranged husband. Music is the language they speak to one another. With music, they share their hopes and dreams and flaws with one another. Through this innocent connection, they feel less lonely.
You can see the joy on their faces as they perform together.
She writes some lyrics for one of his tunes, and he asks her to help him record some songs. In the realm of music, they are soaring above and will forever be connected. Outside of music, they can't really talk about their feelings because they technically belong to other people by their own choices.

On the simple level, you can enjoy this movie just for the music and the simple companionship they find with one another. For you deep thinkers (this is me), consider what might have been had their story lasted longer than a week. Why would they stay with their former partners, when they could enjoy this beautiful connection they share off and on the music page?

If you love music, this movie is for you. The songs themselves are beautiful, well-composed, deep, and lovely. If you enjoy this couple, consider that, after the movie, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova won an Oscar in 2007 for Best Original Song. The two toured together and began a romantic relationship. It ended, and out of that story, they created a documentary called The Swell Season. So their story continues in other films.