See This Film: Once Blu-ray Review


  • Language: English (Surround), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: English, Spanish
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • Release Date: April 1, 2014
  • Run Time: 87 minutes


    In the golden age of Hollywood cinema musicals seemed to have the most extravagant budgets, and these films were a huge success as well as a grand spectacle, but it wasn’t the sets and the costumes or dozens or chorus dancers that made the films musicals. Traditionally the songs helped to advance the plot, telling part of the story or developing the character within the song, and within these terms Once is a true musical. While there are essentially only two important characters and they are the only ones to sing, these songs help to advance the story in many ways, often having nothing to do with the music itself. The male protagonist is physically unable to speak about his heartbreak in one particular scene in the film, so instead he sings about it with improvised songs on the back of a bus. Despite a low budget, shaky camera work that often goes out of focus, and a storyline so simple that it nearly hits the same note for 86 minutes, Once is clearly one of the greatest modern musicals in all the ways that matters.


    Glen Hansard of Irish rock band Frames plays an unnamed struggling musician playing music on the crowded streets of Dublin when he isn’t helping repair vacuum cleaners in his father’s repair shop. Once is essentially a boy-meets-girl tale, and the girl is just as purposefully unnamed. Played by Marketa Irglova, the girl is a Czech woman who hears the man playing on the street and they develop a relationship. She is struggling even more than the musician, trying to feed both her mother and child, meanwhile passionate about playing the piano. Without the means to own one of her own, she visits a local shop to play the ones for sale. Each of them have such a love for music that it brings them together even though they have very little else in common, and this bond is immediate from their very first time playing together.


    Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are one-half the incredible combination in this film, effortlessly portraying musical artists, and always showing their process in their mannerisms to make the moments of conception entirely believable. This is simply their performance as actors, whereas their performances as musicians are beyond words or description. The music is so simple yet extremely heartfelt and personal that it begins to feel like a warm and comforting blanket to shield from the inevitable cynicism towards life. The other half of what makes this film so honestly touching without being at all flashy is the simple words and direction by filmmaker John Carney. All of the simple sequences of the seemingly average love story go to great lengths to make the film as much about the love of music. Once shows brilliantly that just as universal as love is the love of music, time after time helping the nameless characters in the film to grow.


    This Blu-ray release carries over the special features from the DVD including two commentary tracks, each with writer/director John Carney and actors Hansard and Irglova. One of the commentaries is about the film while the other is a musical commentary. This is only for the songs in the film, so it is select commentary, but extensive coverage just the same. There is also a making-of featurette and “More Guy, More Girl” goes into great examination of the extremely simple plot so elegantly played out. There are also a few webisodes set to the bus music. The high definition presentation of the film only highlights some of the shortcomings in the filmmaking, though this are just as easily dismissed with the assets clearly outweighing any budgetary limits.



    Entertainment Value: 10/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 8.5/10

    Historical Significance: 8/10

    Special Features: 9/10

    Follow Real Movie News on Facebook and Twitter

    No comments: