VOD film review: Once
Ivan | On 25, May 2013
Director: John Carney
Cast: Glen Hansard, Markéta Irglová
Watch Once online in the UK: Netflix UK / TalkTalk TV / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
Romance, they say, is like fixing a Hoover. Or, at least, that seems to be the premise behind Once. Essentially a musical, this is more indie drama than glitzy stage show, and is all the better for it. It begins with the chance meeting of a guitar-strumming repair guy and an immigrant girl with a broken vacuum cleaner in tow. As they stroll the streets of Dublin, they discover a shared love of music. An intimate piano shop session later, and the sparks really start to fly.
But this is no conventional romance; the two tortured leads are both realistically laden with past passions, something that places the emphasis on pain and catharsis, rather than sex and meet-cutes. Putting their sorrow into their music, the duet sing together, going on to record a demo tape in a local studio.
Once hinges entirely upon the intimate interaction of the couple. Thankfully, though, this turns out to be a good thing; believable and charming, the actors bond in an endearingly subtle way. They even play their own instruments live – a masterstroke that adds layers to such a simple scenario. Hansard’s guitar almost snaps under the weight of his passionate strumming, while Irglová’s vocals bring a quieter sense of tragedy to contrast his raspy notes. There’s a harmony in their joining together, both audible and visible.
Despite its downbeat ballads, though, this surprisingly short tale avoids heavy-handed sentiment, thanks to John Carney’s astutely sincere direction, which whisks us from cliffs to corner shops without leaving our lead’s acoustic bubble. Along the way, their poetic lyrics allow emotions to be expressed without seeming cheesy or over-played. The result is a bittersweet rendezvous between two strangers – a film that could be dubbed a modern remake of Brief Encounters and never suffer from the comparison.
Once is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.