‘Falling Slowly’ won the Oscar for Original Song and serves as an anchor point for Once. John Carney wrote and directed this film about a Dublin native and an immigrant forming a friendship through music. It seems to be a somewhat recurring theme in Carney’s work; Begin Again and Sing Street. Glen Hansard plays the Dublin native male lead. He is a part-time busker and part-time vacuum repairman in his father’s business. He is also paralyzed in his love life has broken up with his girlfriend after she cheated on him, yet he has never stopped loving her. Markéta Irglová plays the young, separated mother from the Czech Republic living with her mother and child. She has a subsistence living between cleaning houses, selling newspapers, and selling flowers on the street. She befriended a music store owner and gets to use their pianos for an hour a day. There are no named characters in the entire film.
Markéta strikes up a conversation with Glen while he is on the street busking. The movie follows them becoming friends and bonding over a love of music. They begin composing songs together. Markéta helps Glen layer instrumentation on ‘Falling Slowly.’ Glen wrote the song to talk about his lingering love for the woman he pushed away. The song gets better and better throughout the film as it goes from an acoustic guitar solo to being accompanied by Markéta and the piano to eventually a full band in a studio.
Markéta and Glen’s relationship evolves with the song getting equally complex as they both begin to learn more about each other. Glen makes a misstep that feels reasonable for a lonely man early in the friendship and a boundary is established that makes the relationship feel genuine.
Once is not John Carney’s first film, but it has elements that feel like a student film. There are strange camera angles and shot compositions that feel like a sophomoric art school effort throughout the film. They feel out of place each time because much of the filming feels more professional. The dialog and story are well built making a wonderful film overall.
I like romantic comedies. This film is not very comedic, but it is not heavily dramatic either. It is a realistic portrayal of an honest relationship. The choice to avoid creating a couple by the end of the film was brilliant. There are plenty of love stories but far too few friendship films. We all have a lot more friendship relationships than romantic ones right? I want more movies exploring this facet of life.