“Once,” a musical romantic drama written and directed by John Carney, tells the story of two unnamed protagonists who are just referred to as guy and girl. They are performed by singer/songwriters Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard. Much to our delight and surprise, the two also composed and sang the majority of the songs heard in the film, including ‘Falling Slowly,’ which won them an Oscar.
Glen Hansard is a man who performs as a street performer, singing and playing guitar for the money. This is his life, and his instrument is old and broken. He plays the songs that people like to hear during the day, but at night, when they are more open to listening to them, he sings his original songs. As he sings, the camera moves closer to him so we can see his passion.
He performs his beautiful songs before going home to work at his father’s vacuum cleaner repair shop. A Czech immigrant named Irglová who is living with her mother and little daughter is the next person he encounters. Irglová, who was only 17 at the time the movie was being made, is both intelligent and childish. She takes the Hoover along while they go out to lunch, and then she takes him to a music shop. She can’t afford a piano, but the owner of the shop lets her play for a little while every day. She suggests they perform one of his songs since he believes she sings it well.
The chemistry that develops between the two complete strangers drives the movie along with the songs they perform. Irglová ultimately helps Hansard in taking his performance from the streets to a recording studio. The Girl advises The Guy to make an album, fly to London, win back his ex-girlfriend, and achieve fame as a musician.
Together, the two and other street musicians produce a dizzying diversity of inventive songs. The two develop feelings for one another, yet what happens between them is actual life. Real life is also not always a fairy tale. Nonetheless, they can still be beautiful. From beginning to end, the movie Once is stunning.