The movie musicals -- the old traditional ones -- were a victim of changing taste of movie-goers. May be the viewers didn't like the implausibility of characters and suddenly inexplicably bursting into a song. But "Once" (2006), a musical drama, is an attempt to provide a musical that works for a modern audience by grounding the situation in reality. Story-wise, it might be a simple boy-meets-girl love, but their courtship is physically chaste, musically passionate and deeply satisfying.
'Once' takes place in Dublin, Ireland, where the guy (Glen Hasard), who works in his father's (Bill Hodnett) vacuum repair shop, nurses a long-conceiving musical career dream by writing his own songs and singing them on the street for donations. The young man uses the breakup with his girlfriends as stuff for his songs. One day a pretty Czech immigrant girl (Marketa Irglova) hears his song on the street, gets impressed and strikes up a conversation with him.
She was selling roses to shoppers and asks him if he could repair her vacuum cleaner, but she is also an aspiring musician, and the film's sweetest moment happens then, when they sit down at a piano and gingerly perform a duet of one of his songs, their resonance growing as the song progresses until it appears they have performed together all their lives. The girl lives with her mother and daughter. Her husband is in Czech, who doesn't care about her or music. They relate more fully and meaningfully through the music they both adore and their friendship borders on romance but never dares crossing into it. Soon she convinces the guy and they draft other musicians for a marathon recording.
One thing we could adore in Once is the songs, and the way they are seamlessly integrated into the fabric of the understated romance. Like the old Hollywood musicals, the characters never break out into fantastical song and dance. In this movie, music is both an organic force and the result of great creative energy. All of the songs and music are performed and composed only by the leads, a rarity even for musicals.
Apart from the music and songs, the performances supply the charm. The visual stimuli that accompanies the songs of Hasard and Marketa is just mesmerizing. They both are natural and at ease with their roles and are just as affecting when they're talking as when they're singing. Hasard is an friend of director John Carney, who has had only one film role prior to "Once." Hasard recommended the 18-year old Marketa (in her first film appearance) for the girl's role, with whom he had recorded an album.Their uncoerced chemistry and the powerful emotions during the musicals is superb.
Writer and director John Carney makes them slyly express their deepest emotions through music, as when the guy explains his broken-hearted past by brashly making up impromptu songs on his guitar while riding a bus. He is wise enough to keep his film far removed from anything resembling cliche. In a typical Hollywood film, the father would be a tough guy, the recording might provide a third-act conflict and the ending might be totally expected, but in Carney's direction there is none of that formulaic nonsense. Right from the start it is so nature an so pure.
After the final credits were rolling, I realized that I never knew the names of the lead characters in"Once." They are never named in the film, which reflects both the specifics of their own bittersweet would-be romance and the universal nature of the story Carney is spinning through their music. There are unsteady shots and lots of thick indie film aesthetics, but the movie never feels anything less than heart-wrenchingly authentic.
The magic of "Once" remains in experiencing it for yourself.
Academy Award Winning Song : "Falling Slowly"