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235 of 244 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Guy meets Girl and they literally make beautiful music together, June 9, 2007
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This is one of those rare movies that defies any neat classification. It isn't a traditional love story by any stretch. Though it is filled with music from beginning to end it isn't really a musical. In the traditional musical characters will suddenly burst into song but it represented an interruption in the otherwise semi-realistic tone of the movie--think of Gene Kelly in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. But all the songs in this film are in line with the overall realism of the film, they are all songs that occur in normal life.

I don't want to reveal much in the way of details about the movie since much of the joy of the film is discovering the ways it defies expectations. In broad outline it is about a street singer who has put his emotional life on cold storage because of a broken heart and the woman he meets who helps him open himself back up to life. During the day in Dublin he sings familiar standards for tips but at night, when the crowds thin out, he sings his own original material. We see him this way for the first time through the eyes of the Girl as she first meets him (in the credits the two lead characters, never addressed by name, are listed as Guy and Girl). He, played by Frames' frontman Glen Hansard, is singing an absolutely stunning song with intense passion. As he finishes, the camera pulls back to reveal her standing there. From thenceforward we see the two of them get to know each other as they perform a string of amazing songs together.

Neither Glen Hansard nor Markéta Irglová is a professional actor. Hansard did have a prominent role in another great Dublin film about music, THE COMMITMENTS. In that one Hansard played the band's guitarist Outspan Foster, one of the two original members of the band (he is the one who resists the suggestion of the other original member to call their band A Flock of Budgies). In real life, of course, Hansard has long been the resident genius of the great Irish rock band The Frames and both one of the great singers in rock as well as an absolutely brilliant songwriter (neither of which anyone who sees this movie will be inclined to doubt). While visiting Prague a couple of years back he met a precocious teenager who was none other than Markéta Irglová. One thing led to another and within a year of their meeting they recorded and album together entitled THE SWELL SEASON. Next they appeared in this film by John Carney, himself a former member of The Frames. So their time together has been amazingly productive (she also appeared on the critically acclaimed new album by the Frames, THE COST).

The film is filled with wonderful little moments, like the first meeting (driven by Hansard's magnificent performance of "Say It To Me Now"). Or the way the sound engineer recording the Guy's song goes from disinterest to interest as he realizes just how good he is. Or the marvelous extended shot that follows the Girl from a convenience store where she has bought batteries for a CD player down the street for a few blocks as she sings the lyrics she has written for a song the Guy has written the music for.

This truly is a very special film. It does not have the greatest production values; indeed, it feels like the low budget that it is. It works because the two leads, while not professional actors, have a wonderful chemistry both romantically and musically and because Glen Hansard is one of the finest songwriters around. In fact, the soundtrack for the film has to go down as one of the greatest soundtracks ever released. I would urge anyone who loves the music in this film to investigate not merely the soundtrack for the film, but both THE SWELL SEASON, the album by Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, and two albums by the Frames, FITZCARRALDO and THE COST.

Update 8/8/07

I just read today on that Twentieth Century Fox, which owns the distribution rights to the movie, has been so pleased with its performance so far - nearly $7 million in box office on only 140 screens - that they are going to release it to a much larger number of screens and give it a publicity push. Obviously this means that this gem will be granted a much larger audience. Hopefully it will garner the kind of acclaim it deserves.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 19, 2007 10:46:01 AM PDT
jimnypivo says:
Spot on, Robert. This is a fine film which hopefully will get discovered, and loved for those "wonderful little moments", and the fresh and honest relationship that happens between Guy and Girl.

Posted on Jul 8, 2007 6:24:56 PM PDT
Nice background for the review. JP

Posted on Dec 20, 2007 6:24:15 AM PST
D. Rotmil says:
This review was right on the money, and truly helpful. I had very little knowledge of Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard's musical collaborations, and now I'm going to go explore some of their previous recordings, including the work of The Frames. Thanks for a great write up.

Posted on Feb 25, 2008 5:11:38 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 25, 2008 5:12:03 PM PST
Only seen it once (ha!) but cannot stop thinking about it, and recommending it. The DVD is my gift for all my friends' birthdays this year. It's such a wonderful movie.

(And I can't BELIEVE it got an R rating!!! Another plaque on the MPAA Wall of Shame.)

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2008 3:43:25 PM PST
Juan Blanco says:
Great Review!

Can't wait to see this as I am a musician! :D

Posted on Apr 8, 2008 4:14:20 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Apr 8, 2008 4:15:04 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2008 1:20:52 PM PDT
Hey, it was all the "fooks" that got it the R rating. I think it is distantly related to another work that gives you an automatic R rating.

Posted on Apr 2, 2009 2:23:15 PM PDT
Lynn says:
I saw these two musician/singers, with Swell, singing the songs from "Once" and I fell in love with their songs. It was great to watch them interact, with perfect tone and timing. I forgot to mention I saw them on Austin City Limits, on 1/31/2009. I often tune in just to see if it is music I like and most of the time I turn it off. I heard Leonard Cohen many years back. I enjoyed Beck play and there have been more but I don't like the country performers too much usually. But this performance was exquisite from start to finish!

Posted on Mar 2, 2013 9:18:24 PM PST
I just saw this movie on public television because there is a Broadway show based on this movie, I loved the music so much I really want to see the show as well. I can't wait to purchase both the movie and the soundtrack!!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 11, 2014 3:32:25 PM PDT
K. Stitt says:
Just saw the Broadway version on tour in LA - Wonderful production, talented actor/musicians, real life emotions of musicians. A different love story, with an ending that will stay with you. Both leads were outstanding. Dani de Waal was such a strong character without fanfare and fame. Part of the appeal is that of young musicians trying to make it. You know that it is different when the audience has cocktails and wine on the set, a pub setting in Dublin. Don't expect "Singin' in the Rain."
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Robert Moore

Location: Little Rock, AR USA

Top Reviewer Ranking: 327