When going into a musical, the subtle approach is hardly ever taken. Not to say it’s better one way or the other, but Once proves without a doubt that a quiet, bittersweet, subtle approach can work wonders, and give a new level to your typical “indie film”. Not a lot of films can so easily mesh so many genres together, and make it work so well. You’ve got your basic style and presentation of an independent film, you’ve got the premise of a romance film, and then you realize that it isn’t just a musically themed movie, it’s a musical. Usually, I wouldn’t jump to see any movie under those genres, let alone one that attempts to hold all three, but I was thoroughly impressed and very happy with the outcome. These days, anybody can make a movie with just a few thousand dollars and a little effort, and after seeing just enough independent films to know that many of them are nothing more than good attempts, it’s very refreshing to find one that’s not just “good enough”. It could hold it’s own with the best of them, and it’s sad to know it will never get the recognition it deserves. The funny thing about Once is that it’s so simplistic, it’s a little challenging to provide a very detailed review. But it deserves any praise it can get, so here we go.
The characters are nameless and credited as The Guy and The Girl. While The Guy plays his music in the streets of Dublin, he meets and becomes friends with a piano playing Czech girl. After it’s established that neither of them are in any state to start a new relationship, and they both have many issues they need to work out, a strange bond is formed with the two. Helping each other move on through music, but sort of playing and writing it for each other. It creates a mood and tone that makes you realize it’s not so uncommon or hard to believe, and that maybe you’ve been there yourself before. Likable and friendly, it’s easy to feel for them, and their chemistry is perfect.
The music, as it has to be noted, is absolutely wonderful singer / songwriter style, and it’s very effective and well executed. Written and performed by the stars of the movie, a certain personalized element is introduced through the music that’s hard to miss. A non-extravagant method of filming compliments the music, giving it a feeling that you’re not watching a musical, you’re just watching people on a bus play a guitar, or you’re just watching some people on the street sing, or you’re just watching a girl play a piano. It’s not flashy, and not meant to blow you away, but it does anyway. For that, we can be thankful.
Again, the movie is simple, and it’s hard to put into words a convincing review, but it’s hard to imagine being disappointed in this film. With so many subtle touches, and so many personal moments, and so little typical elements of the genres it utilizes, it really does wonders, and is easily one of the best films of it’s year. What’s most notable, and most important to me, is how well it sticks with you. The tone, and the songs, and the sadness, and everything else just stays with you the rest of the day or night. See this film, and if you can, see it with somebody you love. It’s a great movie for those kinds of occasions.