A review of “Once” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: R for language and mature themes

Run Time: 1 hour, 22 minutes



Unforgettable melody is the foundation of this heartfelt Irish romance that puts a twist to the trenchant movie musical.

          A passionate street troubadour with a mending heart (The Frames’ Glen Hansard) lays bare his soul through poignant tunes and big dreams. He imagines rekindling the spark with his lost love and aspires to a big record deal that’s just out of reach.

          Enter an ardent young Czech (singer-songwriter Markéta Irglová) for whom music is an escape from the daily realities of new country, single motherhood and struggling to make ends meet.

          He mentions his work in a Hoover repair shop; she drags her ailing vacuum out for a look. He plays guitar, she tinkles the ivories. His emotional armor is slowly deconstructed by the spry enthusiasm of this buoyant creature for whom life’s lemons are an indomitable excuse to make lemonade.

          A friendship is born of mutual attraction and details are revealed; of an unhappy marriage, ailing parents and fantasies of bigger and better things.

          The music is surprising; tuneful, lilting and haunting. Dublin’s sidewalks are the perfect venue for the tight, subtly expressive style; consistently raw and distinctively handheld.

          Yes it’s the classic take on boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-make-beautiful-music-together but “Once” keeps its narrative close to the vest, never giving up where it’s going until it gets there. Both Hansard and Irglová, simply billed as “Guy” and “Girl” because names would be superfluous, work their simple story with refreshing candor, a touch sentimental but steadily sincere.

A dramatic and endearing duet.