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on January 14, 2012
Marketa Irglova and Glen Hansard were not prepared for what happened to them. Writing a devastatingly beautiful and emotionally honest love song "Falling Slowly" propelled a low budget labor of love "Once" to heights they hadn't imagined possible. The musical tale of two lonely people with bruised and battered hearts who meet on the streets of Dublin struck am emotional chord with movie goers and culminated with an Oscar win for "Best Song". It's hard to know how many fans of the movie even knew that the two were actual musicians and friends for many years, Mr. Hansard heads the critically heralded but under appreciated Irish band The Frames. He befriended the Irgl family while touring the Czech Republic and was immediately impressed with Marketa's musical abilities and did what he could to encourage her to develop her talent. The music chemistry between them is almost immediate and they develop a fruitful partnership. Glen feels at home in the Czech Republic and records a solo album entitled "The Swell Season" in Prague with Czech musicians and Marketa's songwriting and musical assistance. This is the first appearance of "Falling Slowly" prior to the film's release. During the filming of "Once", the two acknowledge that they are falling in love despite an 18 year difference in their ages. The two become "The Swell Season" with the members of The Frames comprising the remainder of the band. Marketa is young and inexperienced and finds herself unprepared for the life of a rock musician on the road. The attention and devotion of fans unnerves her a bit. She questions whether she deserves the attention and struggles to find a way to accommodate fans and understand what is happening to her. Glen is a seasoned road warrior and accustomed to shaking hands and posing for pictures and signing autographs. He fails to understand her trepidation and the first glimpse of discontent in their world is revealed. At the same time, we learn something of Glen's home life. His mother Catherine appeared in "Once" and is extremely proud of her son's success and his Oscar. She sees this as his crowning achievement. His father James is introduced and provides a glimpse into Glen that we've never seen before. James is a ex boxer of championship caliber who is drinking himself to death. James sees his son's success as a sort of redemption for his own life in which he failed to realize his dreams. Glen struggles with this burden and the idea that his father chooses to pass quietly. He tells his son that he will not burden him with the troubles he keeps inside him. It seems that the more successful The Swell Season becomes, the more difficult the success is for Glen to deal with. His mother chastises him for his indifference to his fame and his reluctance to regard the Oscar as a meaningful achievement. She tells him to think what he wants but he won't take her happiness in his accomplishments away. Guilt stricken over his behavior, he confides all of this to Marketa in a pivotal moment filmed in a Czech sidewalk cafe. Expecting empathy, he is shocked when Marketa sadly concludes that he isn't willing or perhaps able to be happy and that he will always find something to do battle with. He is mired in discontent and he sits quietly as she tells him that he wanted success as much as anyone and he worked hard for it and now he is choosing to turn and walk away from it. Their romantic relationship quietly ends but their devotion to each other remains and is sustained by the beautiful music they make together. It's a remarkably courageous decision by the pair to allow the documentary to be released even as they admit that seeing it makes them understandably a bit uncomfortable. It's as open and emotionally honest as a film can possibly get. It's a tribute to the filmmakers that the two become comfortable enough around them to allow so many vulnerable and unguarded moments in their life to be committed to film. This isn't some extension of reality television. This is some defining moments in two incredibly talented people's life. It's unlike anything I've ever seen before. Real life became a sadly beautiful work of art.
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Like many, I fell in love with the duo of Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova with the unexpected hit movie "Once." This tiny movie, made for almost no money, catapulted the pair into indie prominence and even won them an Oscar for Best Original Song (one of my favorites--Falling Slowly). To capitalize on their seemingly instant success, the band (named The Swell Season) hit the road for a two year world tour. But what is the price of instant notoriety? Hansard, who had been working for musical success for many years, was ready and willing to make the commitment that fame dictated. Irglova, on the other hand, was a more reticent partner for whom success came out of the blue. The tour and their fundamental differences put a strain on their real-life romance. With a subtle fly-on-the-wall appeal, the documentary "The Swell Season" chronicles this tumultuous period through amazing highs and disappointing lows. It is a tribute to their artistry, to their music, and to their friendship even as the stresses of the road threaten to alter their relationship irrevocably.

"The Swell Season" is not a movie that promises over-the-top drama, it has a quiet power that sneaks up on you. Initially, it seems that Hansard and Irglova are perfectly in sync. But through small moments, we see Irglova start to pull away and Hansard start to become more and more affected by her withdrawal. The pair seem like great pals throughout, even as their romance appears to dissipate, and you become quite invested in the progression of their relationship. No one is right, no one is wrong. Each is just affected by the tour and its subsequent responsibilities in a different way. Both are refreshingly candid, and don't seem particularly conscious of the camera filming every second of their interactions. Hansard's family provide some of the movie's most intimate and honest moments as the Oscar win threatens to define the couple in a way neither has anticipated (one fan has Irglova's Oscar acceptance quip tattooed on his arm).

As a poignant character piece, "The Swell Season" has a lot to recommend it. But foremost, there is a lot of concert footage that is worth the price of admission alone! If you like the band, the music makes this documentary virtually unmissable. Raw and powerful, they have a sound like no other. The DVD boasts deleted scenes and extended concert footage, and I've watched the concert portions several times since viewing the actual film. I really liked this piece overall, it is refreshingly understated. It doesn't draw any conclusions for you and has no grandstanding. The camera is just there, unobstructed, and as much is said by slight expressions and silent moments as by what is actually verbalized. If you like rock documentaries, this is an essential one about a real couple in a very unorthodox situation. KGHarris, 2/12.
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on December 10, 2011
I had the pleasure of seeing this movie premiere in Boston and it was absolutely lovely. As a huge fan of the Swell Season and Glen Hansard, it means so much more to understand the relationships behind the music and about the musicians themselves than I thought possible. I would highly recommend this to anyone. Warning: This is not a love story, but a story about love.
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on January 7, 2014
I won't bother to add to the already excellent reviews of this doc, other than to say that it's refreshing to see real people and real emotions on film in an era full of fake 'reality'.
The extras on this Blu-ray make it worth every penny and more.
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on April 1, 2012
As a fan of the movie,"Once", the album of the same name, "The Swell Season" album, "Strict Joy" and even Marketa's album "Anar", this was a "must see". The documentary gives us an understanding of the friendship and love that developed between Glen and Marketa as they made music and a movie together. It also gives us a better understanding of the songs that chronicle their love and their eventual break up. We learn a lot about Glen and his life and family and how it has shaped him and his music. In Marketa he found his "muse". Suddenly making music is so much easier--the words flow from their feelings and their experiences together. We are allowed to see them in private and unguarded moments as they travel with the band. The price of the DVD is worth it for the music alone--there are a number of songs included in the deleted scenes. One of them is the heartbreaking song "Happiness". If you are a fan of these singers and the rest of their band, you will find a lot to like about this movie.
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on March 20, 2012
Anyone considering buying or renting or otherwise viewing this movie is almost certainly a fan of the movie "Once". I am among that group, and think that "Once" is in my list of top-10 movies of all time. They captured lightning in a jar with that movie.

"The Swell Season" is a documentary named for the band Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová formed around the time that "Once" was made.
Unfortunately, while the movie The Swell Season contains some special moments providing insight into what it must have been like for them to get swept up in the whirlwind that "Once" brought about, it lacks a thread for the viewer to hold on to. It doesn't seem to flow either chronologically or thematically. For example, we're told the couple became romantically involved, and then subsequently split up, but it isn't really clear from the movie when either of those moments happened.
But I still gave it 3 stars because of the special moments, including:
-- interviews with Glen's parents
-- scene of band members singing Irish folk songs around a table after a gig
-- scenes of songwriting
-- scenes of concert tour (live music from the band)

Above all, if you haven't seen "Once", then see it immediately before even thinking of seeing this movie.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERon March 13, 2012
My fellow Amazon reviewer - K. Harris - has pretty much covered the plot, and back story, of this film, so I won't repeat much of what he (?) has written. This 2011 90-minute documentary, shot in black and white on what appears to be HD digital (the images are sharp) is part of the almost never ending story of Irish Singer-songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. The film of their meeting and beginning as performers was captured in the film "Once". This current film documents their careers beginning after their success for winning the Oscar for the Best Song ("Falling Slowly") and follows them to their current status as performers, but no longer lovers. And, now "Once" has been brought to the Broadway stage as a musical (with the Original Cast album being released today!).

This film has THREE Directors and, while the concert footage - and there is a lot (including 8 musical performances among the 10 deleted scenes - an additional 45 minutes - in the bonus features) - is what you would expect, many of the "personal" scenes - especially one lengthy scene in a café at the 1hr, 10 minute point - is VERY personal. It's hard to believe that the couple knows the camera is right there capturing their intimacy.

There are nearly two-dozen songs performed in the film, though many are excerpts.

This is a most unique music documentary in it's structure and - again, I need to use the word "intimate" portrait of what happens when a guy drops out of high school at 14 to become a street "busker" and, 18 years later, meets a girl of 18 who has just graduated from high school and together they become an "overnight" success in the music business with all that fame entails.

I hope you found this review both informative and helpful.

Steve Ramm
"Anything Phonographic"
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on March 13, 2012
I just watched the movie on DVD. I don't really know how to describe it, or if I should even try to, since it would be difficult to put in words what I just saw and felt. "The Swell Season" is a movie about life, about death, about love, friendship, choices, destiny and basically about what life really is about. Like I said, I really can't write a regular review on it, as it is impossible for me to put into writing all the completeness it contains. It's an amazing movie and it exceeded all my expectations. And they were high. I would recommend to anybody who has a heart and soul to watch it!
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on May 16, 2016
I had no idea that they dated in real life, and also that he was so much older than her. It's no wonder why it didn't work out between them but they did make beautiful music together. I've watched it numerous times in the last few days.
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on July 20, 2012
Sometimes a movie is just good, even if we don't like the direction the plot is going. But when that plot is someones reality and their life is being lived out on screen those twists and turns can be really sad and devastating to watch. The movie Once just wracked my heart with its passion so finding out that the pair had fallen in love just heightened the incredible experience of it all. And then, to see that their music went beyond the movie was icing on the cake. When I first saw this documentary on Amazon I was so excited to hear the real story of their lives, the behind the scenes reality of their everyday. The end result was really tragic to me but strangely beautiful all the same. I think the tortured spirit that Glen Hansaard carries with him is what makes his music so powerful, and the addition of Marketa's sweet as honey, melodic voice made for a truly magical pairing. And we'll always have that.
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