I recently created my Top Ten Movies of 2007, and I made that list by looking at all of the reviews I had written over the course of the year. Unfortunately, I left off one very surprising film that I had yet to write a review for, and that movie is Once.
Once came to theaters and stayed for quite some time, even though I had never seen previews for it or heard anything about it. One time, when I was at the movie theater, I saw people coming out of a showing for Once - it was a bunch of old people, so I figured the film was some kind of sappy indie film for senior citizens. Finally, I rented the movie on DVD and let it sit on my desk for two weeks before finally popping it in. All I can say is, "wow."
Once is not a film that will sound like a must-see on paper. The movie is about a street musician (Glen Hansard) who, by chance, meets a young woman (Markéta Irglová) who wants her vacuum cleaner repaired (he also repairs vacuums). The two end up becoming friends and decide to work together to produce an album of his music. In the process, the two realize there's tension between them, but will their relationship ever progress to the next level?
Yes, Once is essentially a lighthearted romantic drama, but it is an incredibly powerful one. It's not that the movie is about an amazing romance, because it's not, but Once will keep you mesmerized nonetheless. The two lead actors have great chemistry together, and writer/director John Carney maintains a constant level of romantic tension throughout. Are the two merely interested in one another at a friend level, or do they both feel something more? It's hard to tell, and that's what makes Once so interesting.
Amazingly, though, what really makes Once work is the single song that the whole film is based upon. Never before have I seen a song so integral to a movie, and a movie made so great by a single song. Nominated at the Oscars for Best Original Song, "Falling Slowly" is an incredibly simple but mesmerizing song that just pieces the film together so well. You have to see (and hear) it to believe it, but Carney really landed the big one with the Glen Hansard/Markéta Irglová song.
Once is simultaneously basic and complex, and is one of the best movies of 2007.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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