DVD Review: Once

Written and directed by John Carney
Starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
Fox Searchlight
Review by David Chiu

Described as a modern-day musical, “Once,” directed by John Carney, emerges as a rare gem of a love story.It’s not surprising that this modest film has generated numerous positive reviews among critics and audiences when it was first came out last spring—the raves are likely to increase with this recent DVD release.

“Once” follows a very conventional story of ‘boy meets girl.’ The male lead, known only as the Guy (played by Glen Hansard, the singer of the Irish rock band The Frames), is a busker and vacuum cleaner repairman in Dublin. Living and working with his dad, the Guy yearns to make it in the music business. More importantly, he wants to repair his relationship with his girlfriend who is now resides in London.

One night while busking, he meets the Girl (played by newcomer Marketa Irglova), a young Czech who stops to listen. The Girl makes a living as a street vendor and a housecleaner; separated from her husband, she also raises her young child. Both the Guy and Girl share a passion for playing music, and as they collaborate together, their friendship grows. Through the Girl’s encouragement, the Guy finally takes the steps to pursue his musical and personal dreams.

Though not in the tradition of the movie musical a la MGM and “Grease,” “Once” presents its songs in a more simple and natural way while still driving the story. The brilliant music composed by Hansard and Irglova, which previously appeared on their album “The Swell Season” prior to the film’s release, convey the characters’ tender feelings. In the opening scene, the Guy passionately strums his acoustic guitar and sings his heart out towards his absent girlfriend; later in the movie, the Girl plays a sad ballad on the piano while thinking about her husband; she becomes so overwhelmed that she stops and cries.

As Marketa Irglova aptly points out in the behind-the-scenes DVD featurette, there is a documentary feel to the film with no clever editing and camera tricks. The homespun quality of the picture can be also attributed to the chemistry between the two leads, according to Carney in the featurette. Neither Hansard nor Irglova had any serious acting experience, although the former was in the 1991 movie “The Commitments.” He plays the Guy as being pensive and easy-going while Irglova is fetching and charming as the Girl.

In addition to the behind-the-scenes making of “Once,” the DVD also features commentaries by Hansard and Irglova about the songs in the film, and a webisode clip based on the amusing yet sad song “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixit Guy.”

Check out video clips from “Once” courtesy of Fox Searchlight


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