Sunday, March 02, 2008


I'd love it if someone could explain to me why it took me so long to see Once. I love Ireland, singer-songwriter music, and indie films. I should have been first on line to see it when it hit town for one week last year. But I didn't. I also passed it over repeatedly at our neighborhood video store. Why? I don't know. I was in the mood for zombies not love stories; I wanted to watch it as a "date" movie; I really don't know. Instead, it took the adorable moment at the Oscars for me to get clued in. And then it took seeing Swell Season on TV. Then I realized I had to do it. And now I want to know why I waited so long.

Once is a brilliant little play on the kind of intense, charged friendship that can crop up between a man and woman who connect at many levels at once. The intimate dynamic is very reminiscent of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset. I felt like I knew Hansard and Irglova's characters by the end of the film, and I cared about them. It was a world I didn't want to leave. As with Hawke and Delpy, these two were friends before the movie came about, and their sense of comfort shines through.

Visually, the stripped-down feel of the film was perfect, and John Carney pulled a few perfect visual moments out. First, there was Irglova traipsing after Hansard with her canister vac along the streets of Dublin. Then, there was a brilliant scene in the bus with Hansard narrating his story on his beat-up old Takamine.

As far as the story goes, there isn't one. The tension holds for the entire film, and all that happens is an album gets made. (Sorry if this is a spoiler for anyone.) By the usual standards we're taught in writing workshops, the story would never fly as a film or a story. It would need something more at stake. Something would have to break by minute 20. To some extent, it's all there, but very subtle. And really, when something is done well, the rules can be skirted a bit.

Ah well... it's a brilliant little flick.