I’ll always have sympathy for the performer. An artist that has talent but struggles to get their break. Sounds a bit like me with writing, but my bloated egotism aside, it’s also the main focus of low budget Irish indie film, Once, starring Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, and directed by John Carney. Following the aspirations of a vacuum cleaner who moonlights as a busker, Once is a touching story of struggle, dedication to a craft and just how fulfilling failure can truly be. 

Truly a valiant effort on such a small budget, there are times when this feels more like a student film than anything a group of studios had put together. Shaking cameras, and just a feeling that it was cropped together rather quickly, this doesn’t stop Once from being an endearing and enjoyable piece of cinema. A testament to what you can achieve with such a small budget, Carney’s direction takes us through some great scenes that are simple but thoroughly enjoyable. Feeling more like a lengthy music video that focuses more on the talent of its musicians than the complexities of its writing, the film is built on the enjoyable tunes that are scattered throughout. 

But the music means nothing without strong performances behind it, and luckily Hansard and Irglová have some bankable chemistry. They riff on other about as well as the music does, and give solid and believable performances, playing off of one another with what limits they have. For there are limits, and that’s to be expected for a film this contained within itself. Some simplistic camera angles leave a lot to be desired in the personal voice of the films director, and some of the supporting performances lack the spark that makes them enjoyable, dedicated pieces of the film. There as more a backdrop to the leads than anything else, it’s a shame we don’t have time to delve into the supporting players, but they give serviceable performances in roles that have no way of standing out.  

A movie that lives or dies on your musical preferences and taste is a risky decision to make, but banking on the talent of the two leading characters is easy when you’ve got two truly talented musicians. Some brilliant songs litter the soundtrack, most of them songs of love and loss, but all of them adhering to the interesting story and comfy viewing experience. Once is a movie that has no trouble engaging us with two strong characters, and it’s all the more endearing to see the two grow closer as the film goes on. Closer to a romance than it is to a drama, Once is a strong piece of Irish cinema that shows just how great a movie can be regardless of its technical or financial aspects. A really impressive feat of ingenuity, that’s limitations are more through its directors lack of voice than anything else. 

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