Once is a brilliant movie, easily one of my top-five favourites, often the top-one. If you haven’t seen it, then see it. If you’re in Wellington come borrow the DVD off me, if you’re not in Wellington, well I’m sure you have your favourite way of finding the movies you want to watch.

It’s set in Ireland, about a busker/hoover-fixer-sucker-guy, and a poor Czech pianist who gives him ten cents and asks him who his songs are about.

And I love it so much.

Some spoilers below. C’mon, watch it first, you should’ve seen it by now anyway: it’s been out eight years.

It’s a simple story, simply told

You can see that it was shot very cheaply, no great camera rigs or dollys or lighting or whatever. I don’t think that the incredible amount of money spent on creating entertainment is really that worth it - often you can tell stories much more cheaply, and some of the best movies have been done by being creative about having no money

I love that you can see the edges, that it’s not great acting, or amazing set design, or camera work, or editing. it’s just a story about a boy and a girl who change each others lives in small and big ways.

The music is amazing

I’m not usually that into musicals, I dislike the breaking out-of-character in-to-song.1 This blows such musicals out of the water; the music is plot-driven and plot-driving, and very close to the characters’ personalities. It’s so well woven into the story.

The songs themselves are beautiful, the soundtrack album is an excellent album in its own right. It helps that the actors are musicians first. Glen Hansard was apparently initially hired to be a music-advisor and song writer, not to star - the producers of this movie were very fortunate that everything ended up the way it did.

It shows creating music well

I enjoy how realistic the scenes that show writing music are. One scene shows the guy writing a song - guitar in hand, doodle-covered notebook and computer in front, quietly singing fragments and couplets and scribbling away - which is exactly how I wrote songs in days of old.

The whole recording scene also makes me super-nostalgic for the recording I’ve done.

There are some beautiful little moments

These are my favourites:

  • Her walking the vacuum cleaner.
  • The smile on the music-shop owner’s face as he listens to them play together for the first time.
  • After he insisted her vacuum repair was free, and her insisting that “nothing is free”, his father letting them both off by saying just four euros.
  • “Try to speak a little English ma,” “No thank you”.
  • “I’ll pay you back.”
  • The sound engineer as he listens to their first song.

They don’t end up together

This is easily my most favourite thing about this entire movie2. It doesn’t follow the hollywood line of leading man and leading women must end up together, or even that people who are attracted to each other should end up together. They’re just two people who meet each other, encourage each other to move forward with their lives, and then go their separate ways - probably never to meet again.

I think it’s beautiful and real and a breath of fresh air.

  1. I also like music-school/band movies which feature music but don’t stretch credibility quite as much as traditional musicals, but don’t tell anyone - they’re always super-cheesy. 

  2. An aroace mood