By Robert Wilonsky
This astounding little film, which John Carney wrote and directed, is deceptively simple -- a narrative strung together by pop songs, but without the sheen (or arrogance) of most cinematic musicals. By day, a Dublin busker (Glen Hansard) sings Van Morrison on a street corner for spare change. At night, he switches to his own compositions, most written for the girlfriend who's abandoned the guy (who has no name in the film or credits other than The Guy). A Czech girl (Marketa Irglova, billed only as The Girl) approaches The Guy and asks him about his songs. He brushes her off; she's pretty but too young. She's also persistent. It turns out this Girl selling flowers to strangers for loose coins is also a musician -- a pianist and singer, every bit The Guy's equal. And so theirs becomes a friendship and partnership -- though not quite a relationship, because of The Guy's ex and The Girl's estranged husband. He teaches her his songs and they marshal their forces to book time in a recording studio, where they cut a few tracks that will lead them . . . where? We have no idea at all by the end of 88 minutes that come and go far too fast. Ah, but that's the thing about Once: You'll want to see it twice.
John Carney Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova, Hugh Walsh, Gerry Hendrick, Alaistair Foley, Geoff Minogue, Bill Hodnett, Danuse Ktrestova, Darren Healy, Mal Whyte John Carney Martina Niland Fox Searchlight

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