'Once' a lovely musical film

LIZ BRAUN - Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:05 AM ET

Once is a musical and a love story and we feel you recoil at that description so we hasten to say it's really okay. Better than okay. Way better than okay. It's quite wonderful.

Set in Dublin, Once is the story of a busker and a Czech immigrant. The busker (Glen Hansard) works in his dad's vacuum repair shop and spends the rest of his time singing and playing guitar on the street.

The immigrant (Marketa Irglova) is also a musician who earns money selling flowers. She and he bond over music and become friends. He happens to be nursing a broken heart, but that's something that mostly has impact on his music. She has domestic issues of her own.

A viewer waits around for these two to fall in love, and ends up falling in love with the characters. They meet, they write music, they sing together and they take a chance on recording a demo CD. It's sublime. You'll hang onto every note, every word, every ordinary scrap of simple emotion.

It's not so much what happens in as what doesn't happen -- there is never a false note in the film. (It's already being called the anti-Dreamgirls by critics.) There are no bogus plot developments, no huge turning points, no emotional deus ex machina, not even any pre-recorded backing vocals. This is about as understated as a movie can get, and it all plays so fresh and so uncontrived. How you read the ending of the story depends upon whether you are a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty sort of person.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are singer/songwriters in real life and have worked together, musically, for a few years. She has sung with his band, The Frames, and the two of them released a CD called The Swell Season last year.

Neither is an actor on a regular basis, although Hansard had a role in The Commitments. Both put in charming performances here.

Their chemistry has a lot to do with Once taking the World Cinema Audience Award at Sundance. This is an unusual and completely engaging movie.

(This film is rated 14-A)


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