Movie Review: Once

I’m not too big a fan of musicals. In fact, I usually despise them. There are few however, that I take exception to. Those are the ones which don’t contain over elaborate and unrealistic sets and don’t break out into musical numbers randomly. The music should be used almost as another character and as a way to guide the story, rather than slow it down. Once I can happily say fits into this category, but at a cost.

Once is an ultra low-budget semi-musical movie. It takes place on the streets of Dublin, Ireland. The two main characters have no names, but the only thing that’s really important is there bond. The guy (Glen Hansard) is a nearly penniless vacuum fixer with a talent for singing and the guitar. His songs are inspired by his former love who has long left him. The girl (Marketa Irglova) works in a flower shop and finds something deeply moving in the music guy makes. They soon enter a strange relationship (out of love?) in which songs are the only way they learn about themselves.
The songs in Once are perhaps the best part of the movie. The song “Falling Slowly” deservedly picked up the Oscar for best original song for it’s sweet simplicity. Once’s music is not simply there as a background, it is the story. The songs turn into the narrator and give the audience insight on love and this relationship. In this great musical device however, forms the film’s biggest problem.
The songs moved Once along so beautifully that I almost forgot that there really was no story. The music is relied upon so heavily that writer/director John Carney seemed to forget that Once was missing a true plot. The guy and the girl are in love, but that’s it. Where’s the conflict? What difficulties did they have to go through? There are a few little difficulties along the way but they seem mainly trivial. What did they have to go through to make this work? Are they even in a relationship? Are they even in love? All of this information seems basically left out.
Once is only a rough draft, not a finished movie. With a little more attention to character development and writing, Once could’ve been a model of romantic story and musical. Instead, Once is a movie worthy of seeing maybe only, once. Or better yet, just buy the soundtrack. That’s basically the entire movie.