The month of March is a wondrous time to be Irish with everyone in the mood for celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. In the States, St. Patrick’s Day is just another excuse to drink some brews, get wasted and wake up the next morning with a hangover so massive, you realize you never want to go through that again…until Cinco de Mayo. In Ireland, it is a national holiday celebrating the life of patron saint of Ireland with parades, a grand feast, and getting drunk as hell. To find the perfect film that feels close to the magic of Ireland is rough, so why not chose a film that everyone seems to agree captures Ireland in a bottle? Something light in heart, done with creativity, grand locations showing the natural wonder yet small in scale. Also, if we can throw some great music that be wonder-
2006’s Once, directed by John Carney, is a musical like no other and probably the best representation of the Irish music scene and the modern vision of Ireland with full use of real locations without relying on a studio. The story is about a busker simply known as Guy (Glen Hansard) who meets a girl named Girl (Marketa Irglova) to eventually make music together and have a blossoming romance. Once is also unique as it is a musical without big production values or dance sequences. Instead, it relies on realistic performances making the musical world it creates blend seamlessly into the real world.
The film starts with Guy playing and singing away on Grafton Street in Dublin his song ‘Say It to Me’. After a heartbreaking introduction, a 19 year old Czech flower seller named Girl who compliments him on his playing. She has heard him during the day playing covers and wonder why he does not play originals during the day. Guy simply said no one would listen, but Girl counters by saying she will. Girl finds out he works at a vacuum shop, brings along her broken vacuum the next day and starts to make conversation. The two spend the time talking about past relationships and music.
As they converse, Girl informs Guy that she plays in a music store on her lunch break from time to time. Guy goes along with her to the shop with his guitar in hand and play a song together that he has written entitled ‘Falling Slowly’.
Their duet is a spectacular moment as they unite to bring a song about rekindling a flame that has burnt out by bringing it back home. They continue their hanging out with Guy telling the story of his ex on the bus with the humorous ‘Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy’.
Guy and Girl go to the shop to fix the vacuum and he shows her the room. He almost screws himself over by asking her to stay which prompts Girl to say ‘Fuck this’ and leaves. The next day, Guy tries to make up for mistake by starting to hang out more and write some songs together. Guy visits her house and meets her daughter discovering Girl is a young mother. Guy gives a song he has been working on to Girl to write the lyrics for. Girl creates the lyrics by walking through the streets late at night on a battery run. Girl performs ‘If You Want Me’, a song about how the one who longs for her would have to trust her and satisfy her needs.
Guy starts working on another song about his ex-girlfriend called ‘Lies’ reflected back on the times they had and the fallout that came after. This convinces Girl to help Guy win her back through his music.
Girl helps Guy out to get a recording contract and getting a band on the street to come play with them for the time being. Girl convinces a studio manager to give them the space to record. At the studio, they record the fascinating ‘When Your Mind’s Made Up’ that even makes the producer go from seeing them as oddballs to musicians that know what the hell they are doing.
Guy soon finds out that Girl is married to a man in the Czech Republic. Guy asks if she still loves him and Girl simply says ‘Miluju tebe’, which translates to ‘It is you that I love’. Girl gives a tearful performance of her original composition, ‘The Hill’.
As their recordings wrap up, Girl tells Guy that her husband is coming back to live in Dublin. Guy is leaving to London after showing his father his demo tape to help him get on track to win his girl back and be a professional musician. Guy tries to convince Girl to stay the night at his place, but it would lead to sex only and she does not want that. Girl agrees after some time to go, only to stand Guy up as he leaves to London. As he leaves, he buys the one thing Girl never had: a piano. Guy tells his ex he is coming back and she is pleased by his return. Girl gets her new piano just as her husband arrives. They both come to the realization they will never see each other ever again and the film comes to a bittersweet end.
What I have to say about Once has been already said by several reviewers and film lovers before me. Once is nothing short of magnificent It is one of the greatest films of the past decade and a musical masterpiece by breaking new ground on the genre. The two stars of the film are genuine and have a chemistry that hits the right notes, which briefly extended into real life as they created The Swell Season. After it ended, Swell Season made a break-up album that was both depressing and gorgeous. The camera work of this film is something of note as it seems shot like a documentary more than a true film. To me, this route benefits the review as we get immersed in their world and story in the real world. The music for this film is remarkable. I listened to the soundtrack in preparation of this review and it still brought a tear to my eye from the elegant Oscar winning song ‘Falling Slowly’ to the painful and broken sound of ‘The Hill’. The soundtrack is what makes this film great and stands apart from the rest. I honestly have no problems at all with this film. It is a perfect music film and one of my personal favorite films of all time. Once is one film you can’t watch just once.
Next week, Film A Week ventures down to the depths into the sea to uncover the mysteries it holes. Noted as the first true example of steampunk, join us as we travel alongside Kirk Douglas and James Mason in the Disney classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
Film A Week Week 11: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
On Film A Week’s new day, Saturday
Stinger of the Week