Once (2006) was one of those strange films for me, where a bunch of people I respect all recommend it to me, and yet I still can’t get enthused about checking it out. Tis probably time I learned my lesson, because I often end up being a big fan of such films, and this is no exception.
I knew that this film had a small budget, but this is truly micro-budget stuff and it is so invigorating to see a film like this have such a monumental following. This is not a particularly nice looking film. It often looks quite cheap and digitised, which is a further testament to how the filmmaking on display has connected with many, many people. Given the way it combines love story and musical though, perhaps the following is not such a surprise. The non-professional actors do occasionally stick out. But as soon as another song is weaved seamlessly into the film, you will stop caring. And reflecting back on the film, the acting is not something that negatively impacts on being able to appreciate the film.
Of course such a focus of the film is the music and there are some great tunes right from the start. Not the usual catchy twee rubbish you are used to from films musicals either. The songs are genuine too, not looking to subvert anything or be ironic at all. The opening stages of the film are so music heavy that it almost functions like an ambitious music video. The frequency tapers off, but the way that the songs naturally land as part of the narrative means they never feel like they stick out or that the director felt it was time to squeeze another one in simply for the sake of it. The more scripted aspects of the film did feel a little clunky and even trite initially. But as the story progresses and goes a bunch of places, both wholly expected and totally not, these sequences bothered me less and less. The basic plot points are quite stock standard, but the thematic and psychological approach taken to them separates Once from the pack.
Verdict: Once feels as much like a concert film as anything else, which is no bad thing. The film starts slow but as it grows into its unconventional storytelling, you will gladly go along for the ride. Especially as the really beautifully done musical interludes come thick and fast. Pint of Kilkenny