Disgustipated’s review published on Letterboxd:
When I was 18, I saw the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She was jumping up and down at a gig, totally enthralled by the music. I went straight up to her, grabbed her by the Doc Martin boot and hoisted her up on top of the mosh pit. From that day forward, music was the medium of our romance and the soundtrack of our love. 17 years later and we are still the greatest couple to have ever existed, cemented by the foundation of our shared passion for music. Then along came a movie called Once, where two characters find love and tenderness for one another through their affinity for music and provide each other with compassionate strength and succour. Naturally, my wife and I were natural suckers for this film from the word go.
The film was written, directed and acted by musicians and the movie is tempered with a devotion to the power of music and its spirit. The two leads who play the romantic couple, Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova wrote all of the songs in the film and had actually been performing together before working on the movie. The main song from the film, "Falling Slowly" went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 2007; and had my wife humming it for the next couple of days, which is testament to it's appeal.
There is a scene in the first act of the film where the two characters, "Guy" and "Girl" jam together in a music store. Guy has a basic chord progression and some lyrics which he outlines to Girl as he plays and she starts to join in, working around the chord progression and improvising as she goes. This perfectly catches the feel and timbre of the film. It is as thought the director, John Carney, outlined to the actors a loose plot, which they then ran with; improvising and riffing along as the film progresses and providing a charmingly intimate and organic quality that is both affecting and sincere.
Guy and Girl are such endearing and lovable characters. Guy is the quintessential struggling artist, ardently pursuing his music, busking on the streets and dreaming of making a record. He is the lamenting, bemoaning romantic stuck on his ex-girlfriend, writing elegiac and heartfelt tunes as a paean to his lost love. Girl is endearingly cute and full of vitality and tenacity, staring life in the face and seeking the joy in everything. It is only as the film progresses that we slowly see her drop the façade of stoic fortitude and we become aware that she has her own past along with its concomitant complications.
Despite it's seemingly relaxed and pleasantly paced narrative, which allows us to sit with their awakening feelings for one another as they both support each other and bloom, this is actually a tightly constructed film. Every scene works towards deepening and rounding out the characters while progressing the narrative along to what we hope will be their eventual open proclamations of love for one another. There is one scene in particular when Girl stumbles across a lone piano in a darkened studio room and starts to play a beautiful heartbreaking song and Guy comes in and sits next to her. This scene is so intimate and heartfelt that I am not ashamed to say that I started to cry.
I haven't watched a movie recently where I have wanted two characters to get together so bad. I completely fell in love with the both of them. This whole movie was stuck in my head for days afterwards like the afterglow of a pleasant dream. I might not have met this film in a most pit, but I certainly fell in love with it straight away and I already look forward to revisiting again some day. It is a must see for music lovers and a must see for everyone else as well, i.e. as long as you still have a heart see this film as soon as you can.