Once ★★★★

Musicals don't come much more low-key than this, planted in the everyday mundane routines of people just getting by. Yet such an earnest approach feels far more rewarding than the typical starry-eyed love story evoked in song. None of the romance so crucial to elevating both the songs and drama is missing because of the setting, rather the two elements are enhanced because of it.

John Carney effectively replicated the same formula for his latest film Begin Again with limited success but here, without the stars and any sort of fuss, the heart worn on its sleeve is pumping ten to the dozen. The film was shot in less than three weeks and it shows but not for a moment do the lower production values take you out of the setting. It is helped no end by a collection of beautifully songs performed and written by the two actors themselves.

In their own right the numbers are well crafted to grab your attention but Carney understands the right moments to mix them into the narrative of the couple. Hansard's raspy, powerful voice is the driving force of the majority of the songs and he sings with such conviction you are left in no doubt that he means every note he hits. They never feel forced or as if they shouldn't be sung in the moments they are, instead organically slotting into position acting as spontaneous bursts of passion.

A great example of the music working in harmony with its characters is the song given by The Guy to The Girl (we never learn their names). She sits up late at night writing lyrics to the music playing on her CD Walkman, heading out to the shops to buy more batteries after they die. The camera tracks her back home Unfinished Sympathy style, walking along in her coat and comfy slippers as she sings to the accompanying music.

Neither Marketa Irglova or Glen Hansard are career actors which works in favour of the hand held, personal approach and there is no suspension of belief required when it comes to buying into their relationship. The power of the music casts an enchanting spell over this will-they-won't-they, never forcing sentiment upon you because that's what romance truly feels like.

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