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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.77%
Just Average: 3.49%
Pretty Crappy: 4.65%
Sucks: 1.16%

8 reviews, 38 user ratings

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by brianorndorf

"Lovely, but perhaps a little more effort next time, guys"
4 stars

“Once” is a pleasing love story held captive in an extremely low budget, iffy-looking production. It’s powered by pure intentions and the creative battery of musicianship, but less effort is placed into the visual impact, which ultimately kneecaps the experience when it clearly desires to drill straight to the heart’s deep red core.

The Guy (Glen Hansard) is a working-class Irish dreamer, plugging away in his father’s vacuum repair shop by day and hitting the streets to perform his songs at night. During one of his street corner concerts, Guy meets The Girl (Marketa Irglova), who is smitten with Guy’s guitar playing and touched by his lyrics. After some flirtatious pushing and pulling, Guy asks Girl to form a makeshift band, fashioning a tentative bond between the two that skirts around love, but never seems to settle, much to Guy’s frustrations and heartache.

What really sold me on “Once” were the intimate moments between the characters. It’s a film created with little in the way of a budget or studio interference; the end product being a soft, trembling feature that believes in the magic of infatuation and silent hell of unrequited love. It’s an open wound of stifled emotions, and I was quite taken with the interesting ways it attempts to portray the unstoppable connection between man and woman, here employing the rickety wood bridge of music.

Using new screen talent like Hansard (lead singer of the Irish band The Frames) and Irglova adds to the freedom of the piece. Director John Carney likes to rely on the freshness of the talent, trusting their unease with acting will bring out the kindly awkwardness between the characters. For the most part, this technique works; slowly sucking in the viewer as Guy and Girl grow comfortable around each other, especially when they create music. For the record, I can’t say I’m a fan of Hansard’s drippy songwriting treacle or bombastic vocal delivery, and a sizable portion of the picture’s appeal is reliant on the allure of his music. Regardless of quality, the passion behind the tunes speaks volumes about the characters, and it’s impossible to turn a cold shoulder to the romantic pining blossoming between Guy and Girl when they intertwine their voices, edging “Once” closer to the musical genre at times.

Of course, it feels unfair to call out the technical limitations of “Once” when the film is so sweet and humble. However, there’s a limit to how much informal camerawork one can buy before it starts to resemble a bad clip from “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” Shot with a commercial DV camera, “Once” uses jittery long lenses and camouflaged camera placement to achieve that raw, unfettered look at two souls finding perfect sync. Admittedly, it keeps the film baggy; free from succumbing to the pressures of the meet cute and assorted romantic nonsense. However, Carney becomes a little too enamored of the cinematographic limitations, and loses some excruciatingly important scenes to darkness and lousy focus. Call me crazy, but I like to actually see cinematic moments of emotional longing and heartache, not try to squint them into view. “Once” lost me repeatedly with its disheveled DIY approach and inconsiderate lighting.

There’s a moment shared between Guy and his father where they sit in a cramped kitchen and listen peacefully to Guy’s demo. Film history has trained me to expect a parental reaction nearing hysteria, but “Once” offers a petite piece of subtle sweetness, and it sums up the movie beautifully. This is a warm picture intended for soft hearts who appreciate the ache of attraction. Even if you’re like me, and just couldn’t hurdle the presentation or the music, there’s an exceptionally sincere, expressive quality to “Once” that’s universally appealing.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15707&reviewer=404
originally posted: 07/05/07 11:29:59
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival For more in the 2007 Philadelphia Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 San Francisco Film Festival For more in the 2007 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/25/13 sam It is an ok movie if one likes the music, primitive storyline otherwise 2 stars
10/20/11 Joey One of the most heart-felt movies I've seen, complete with outstanding music. 5 stars
8/01/11 Piz Formulaic boy-meets-girl snoozer that's carried by a couple of decent folk songs 2 stars
5/09/11 Stephanie Worth watching just for the excellent music! Beautiful. 4 stars
9/13/10 MP Bartley A beautiful, sweet film. 5 stars
4/13/10 ES It was ok, but musicals are never great 3 stars
12/15/09 Joanna this was my fav movie 5 stars
3/23/09 Anonymous. holy wow, great movie :P 5 stars
1/03/09 julia IMO, the best music film ever made. 5 stars
12/05/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 5 stars
10/31/08 Lucy the best film ever made. my favorite. :] 5 stars
8/23/08 AnnieG Not a musical as it is often described! Boring at times, and overall an evocativefilm. 3 stars
3/10/08 joana very touching esp. if u are into music. you will realize how powerful music can be 4 stars
3/06/08 Jackie Boring & Dull - even if I amthe only one! 2 stars
1/04/08 Taylor Fladgate Great chemistry, great songs, great story. 5 stars
12/07/07 Martin dude theres no country called Czechoslovakia, prof reviewer should know it unless u r Amer. 4 stars
10/02/07 John Hudson Oscars Now! Best film, best score, best original song. Perfect! 5 stars
9/27/07 JMW Thrilled I saw it before I read Erik's reviw, he gives away the joy of discovering 5 stars
9/13/07 DC good flick, but I didn't write home about it 4 stars
9/05/07 BertRito Incredible. That's all I can say... 5 stars
9/04/07 Pat Perfect. That is all I can say. 5 stars
9/02/07 C.Mason poor quality sound,poor poor production value a rip-off 1 stars
8/29/07 Pinhead Bittersweet, deeply moving, yet still energizing and uplifting 5 stars
8/09/07 Frank 'F-words' humorous, necessary part of show, beautifully done, art, great, touching, yes 5 stars
8/06/07 Private I enjoyed it more than Before Sunset 4 stars
8/05/07 Maggie Curran Delightful, well-scripted and well-acted 5 stars
8/04/07 jcjs33 wow, beautiful, melancholy, perfect, lovely etc. 5 stars
7/29/07 Elizabeth Extremely overrated -- I had such high hopes. 3 stars
7/29/07 suepie Very evocative film, great music 5 stars
6/24/07 Roy F. Moore Other than the "F-words" in the beginning, the movie just shines! 5 stars
6/22/07 Melissa K Weaves a spell of charm and longing with inspired acting and musical performances. 5 stars
6/18/07 Ed Dill An extremely touching film about a relationship fueled by the love of music 5 stars
6/17/07 JB Excellent simple plot and moving music seamlessly integrated. 5 stars
6/09/07 Kathryn Best film of the year. The music is used very skillfully to capture authentic feeling. 5 stars
6/01/07 JT It's unpretentious yet grand in its authenticity. The actors and music are fabulous! 5 stars
5/30/07 Jim Brandt Best romantic comedy since Notting Hill. Honest music, like Prairie Home Companion... 5 stars
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  16-May-2007 (R)
  DVD: 18-Dec-2007



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  John Carney

Written by
  John Carney

  Glen Hansard
  Marketa Irglova

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