This past weekend, one of my best friends convinced me to give the 2006 Dublin-set, musical, Once, a shot. Once had been a film that I had wanted to see for the longest time. It combined three of my favorite things (music, romance, and Ireland), plus its soundtrack boasted the wondrous, touching song, “Falling Slowly,” so it was pretty much a guarantee that I would love this film. What I didn’t expect, however, was just how much I would end up loving it. The short answer: a whole lot.
Once never names its characters, but you’d be hard-pressed to find two more believable leads than Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova as Guy and Girl. The pair’s dialogue and simple interactions, such as Girl pulling the Hoover vacuum cleaner behind her as the two of them walk and talk together, or Guy’s hesitance as three, burly guys enter Girl’s apartment to use the TV (it’s the only one in the complex), feel so genuine and authentic that they cannot be dismissed. Not to mention, Irglova and Hansard’s chemistry is so palpable that every scene in Once is charged with emotional energy. Whenever the two of them are close together, whether they are playing their instruments or not, you’re constantly expecting the fireworks that sadly never fully explode.
But the simple fact that Guy and Girl (spoiler alert) never kiss on screen illustrates Once’s understanding of true romance. When people fall for each other, it’s not the first kiss or the first time they sleep together that they cling to and remember. Instead, it’s about the simple, kind, and caring actions, like fixing a vacuum cleaner free of charge or playing a song you’ve never played in public before for someone. These little moments (and writer and director John Carney’s belief in them) are what make Once so special. They give substance to the beautiful music, provide even deeper lyrics to the perfectly performed songs, and allow for the selfless, compassionate, and incredibly romantic final gesture by Guy at the end of film to feel honest and earned.
Once is like the best concert you’ll ever go to. It’s a short, simple, and beautiful film that I never wanted to end, and it will stay with you, like a great song that gets stuck in your head, long after the credits appear on screen.