Once (2006)

A couple of weeks ago my Aunt Bernie recommended that I watch the movie Once (last year I watched Lars and the Real Girl at her recommendation and enjoyed that). In her words the film “has a natural, raw and haunting soundtrack/sweet storyline that sticks with you long after the credits roll.”

I added the film to my NetFlix queue  and moved it to the top. A movie recommendation allows me to watch a movie without knowing much about it. When I am looking for prospective movies I often read reviews, plot descriptions, and check out the cast and crew. But when I get a good recommendation I like to watch the film without getting any spoilers or biases.

So in the spirit of not giving any spoilers I’m going to make a few very general and vague comments about Once first, then provide a break, followed by more comments.

If you enjoy films that feel very real, have acoustic guitar playing and singing, and are set in Ireland you might like this film. Since my readers are a diverse group I’ll throw in the disclaimer that the language may be a bit too realistic for some (I think there were more than 20 uses of the F word). I watched it this week and really enjoyed it. It won many awards and received many nominations, and the vast majority of the reviews I read (after watching it) were positive.

Here is a trailer:

End of General Comments——-Begin of Potential Spoilers

Just so we’re clear, if you’re still reading you’re about to walk into a minefield of spoilers. If you want to watch the film you should probably stop reading now.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova have been in the news over the past few days after a man committed suicide at one of their concerts on Thursday night. Before watching Once I did not know that Hansard and Irglova were in a band. I knew they had written the songs for the movie together, but that was all.

So here are a few things I really appreciated about the film.

The actors seem real. At the time I did not realize that neither Hansard nor Irglova consider themselves actors  (they are musicians). Their performances seem very genuine. At times it feels like a documentary instead of a drama. The fact that the movie is not heavily processed adds to this.

The music is great. Glen knows how to play the guitar. His well worn Takamine (it’s not a prop, it’s one of his real life guitars) was one of the characters in the film to me. Most of the songs were recorded directly during the filming takes, so you’re not watching lip syncing and air guitar playing.

The script is not a template. At times it seems that the movie is adhering to a classic Hollywood formula, but then there are twists and turns and dead ends. I like the element of openness to the plot, the pieces of resolution withheld. Life is that way. Not every desire is satisfied.

The two main characters are unnamed. I totally missed this until the credits rolled. They are listed as “Guy” and “Girl.” I have no idea how I missed the lack of names during the movie.

Loyalty to family. I appreciated the loyalty to family that was illustrated by several of the characters. The guy helped out his father and talked to him before leaving for London. The girl did not forget her family when she met the guy. I like the emphasis on commitment, both the girl to her family and even the guy to a girlfriend who hurt him in the past.

Language is used well. At time the girl and her mother converse in Czech, which is not translated. Those scenes capture the awkwardness and uncertainty the guy is experiencing at the moment. She also delivers a key line in the movie to the guy in Czech, which is never translated (if you want to know what she said you need to look it up). I was surprised when I realized what her response to his question was.

I found this film to be refreshing, thought provoking, and entertaining. It has my endorsement.

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