15 September, 2008

Once (2006)


Here's that rarest of treats - a perfectly formed confection of a film. Writer-director John Carney (On the Edge (2001)) takes us into the heart of a singer-songwriters dreams, in the heart of Ireland, and the star-crossed love (of a kind) that can be kindled at the rougher edge of existence.

Glen Hansard plays Guy, a talented busker still living with his Dad (Bill Hodnett)in a Dublin Hoover repair shop, who chances upon a young single-mother Czech immigrant (Markéta Irglová), who's living with her mum (Danuse Ktrestova) in the rougher side of town. She's been left holding the baby by the father, who didn't emmigrate with her, while Guy is still pained by his own beloved's betrayal - she's now living in London. But, as it quickly becomes apparent to the pair that each may have talent to offer the other, the songs that they begin to write, rehearse and ultimately record together tell their own story...

Right, OK, fine, it IS a musical, and I am only too aware how the form divides viewers. But, in much the same fashion that Lars Von Trier managed to combine artistic and narrative integrity with beautiful songs in the 1997 Palme D'Or winner Dancer in the Dark, Carney here also convinces, with the film's combination of touching, subtle lead performances and genuinely stirring, gorgeous tunes.

Its limited running time is entirely appropriate - we are given just enough chance to get to know, root for and like all the characters before life, as it so often does in reality, sets them on (divergent?) paths. The framing of the tunes (which, as with Bjork's character in DITD frequently forms an internal viewpoint) contrasts well with the always-believable, drama-doc interaction between the central and incidental players.

Too mushy, perhaps? Sentimental? You must be joking - this is about as real as it gets, and my bet is your tears will be joyful.

Awards: Click here for more information.

85 mins.

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