Writer-director John Carney has fashioned a lilting quasi-romantic drama with music with Once, a slight, scruffy little charmer. Made on a microbudget with two decidedly appealing performers who are as far away from movie stars as one could get, Once tells a sweet, simple story punctuated with offbeat tunes and offering the kind of male-female friendship that is a rare thing indeed in movies of this century.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 2.0 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 26 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-raykeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/01/2014
A Dublin street entertainer (Glen Hansard) has been dumped by his girl friend and writes songs of angst which he performs in the streets after he finishes his work each day in his father’s (Bill Hodnett) vacuum cleaner repair shop. He meets a young woman (Markéta Irglová) in the street one day who likes his music and has some musical talent of her own playing piano and singing. Her enthusiasm about his talent combined with her own innate musical gifts spurs the lad on to complete more songs, book a studio to record his stuff, and take his demo CD to London to see if he can’t make a go of a music career. He’s attracted to this spunky lass, too, but she’s married (though for the moment estranged from her husband) with a child at home, so any romance just isn’t in the cards, at least for the moment.
The Production Rating: 4/5
John Carney’s script and direction are unkempt, unconcerned with slickness or perfect continuity, but once the viewer comes under the spell of these two very decent human beings with their unusual songs (themselves untidy with occasionally forced rhymes) and warm personalities, the film’s uncomplicated technology and the inclusion of some of the clichés of the songwriter genre (people picking up songs instantly with perfect harmonic blending effortlessly) don’t really matter much. Carney lets his camera circle and embrace the two stars as they sing the film’s most famous (and Oscar-winning) ditty “Falling Slowly” in a music store, and the other songs like “Say It to Me Now,” “If You Want Me,” “Leave,” or “You Must Have Fallen from the Sky” are sometimes presented straightforwardly as performance pieces, sometimes as throwaways sitting in a bedroom or on the bus (the delightful “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy”), and sometimes as background for music video-like treatments showing the boy’s relationship with his former girl friend or an afternoon at the seashore. The film is punctuated by its very lax, easygoing style. Emotions aren’t big ones, and the friendship being forged here between these two people joined by musical talent but separated by their own priorities is delicately and most suitably handled with a lightness of touch from the director and his two leading performers.
Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová were friends in real life before the movie was cast, so their relationship in the film reflects their genuine affection for one another with the duo ably capturing the sense that they’re just meeting and forging a new relationship taking baby steps at every turn. Their songwriting is certainly unconventional but oddly haunting, and one can understand how these songs from them would grow in meaning the more often one revisits them. The two other significant roles in the piece: Bill Hodnett as the boy’s father and Danuse Ktrestova as the girl’s Czech mother add solid support to the two leads. Darren Healy has an amusing cameo as an addict trying to steal money in the opening sequence, and Geoff Minogue as a recording studio engineer has a moment or two to shine later in the picture.
Filmed digitally and presented in its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio with 1080p resolution using the AVC codec, the image is pleasingly sharp without being razor-edged. Color is well under control with accurate flesh tones. Black levels are just fair, however, though contrast is consistently applied. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix delivers the music and the ambient sounds of Dublin with clarity if not great immediacy. Dialogue and lyrics sung in the songs have been well recorded (one may occasionally need the subtitles for those actors with thicker brogues though that isn’t often the case), and there are no artifacts to block the enjoyment of the innovative music.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Audio Commentary: writer-director John Carney and stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová comment thoughtfully about the making of the film.
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Music Commentary (36:37, HD): Carney, Hansard, and Irglová also comment on the thirteen music sequences in the movie repeating some of their comments from the separate audio commentary. The viewer may view all of these segments or choose among them individually.
Making a Modern Day Musical (12:43, SD): writer-director John Carney, stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, and producer Martina Niland talk about how they managed to shoot the film on a $100,000 budget.
More Guy, More Girl (9:39, SD): ): writer-director John Carney discusses the conception of the story while stars Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová talk about their characters in the piece.
“Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy” Webisode (0:56, SD): the brief ditty set to some line drawings from the internet.
An unpretentious charmer of a drama with music, Once became a hit Broadway musical after the indie success of the movie (winning eight Tony Awards including Best Musical), but here it is in its rawest form with refreshing performances and a good high definition video release. Recommended!
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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