Once is a 2007 Irish musical film written and directed by John Carney. Set in Dublin, this naturalistic drama stars musicians Glen Hansard (of popular Irish rock band The Frames) and Markéta Irglová as struggling musicians. Collaborators prior to making the film, Hansard and Irglová composed and performed all of the original songs in the movie.
Shot for only €130,000 (US$160,000), the film was successful, earning substantial per-screen box office averages in the United States. It received enthusiastic reviews and awards such as the 2007 Independent Spirit Award for best foreign film. Hansard and Irglová's song "Falling Slowly" received a 2008 Academy Award for Best Original Song and the soundtrack as a whole also received a Grammy nomination.
Once spent years in development with the Irish Film Board. It was during a period where the film board had no chief executive (for about 6 months) that the film was given the go-ahead by a lower level executive on the proviso that the producers could make it on a budget of approx 150k euro and not the initial higher budget.
An unnamed, thirty-something Dublin busker (listed in the credits as "Guy", played by Glen Hansard) sings and plays guitar on Grafton Street, a Dublin shopping district. He struggles with the trials of performing on the street, including chasing after a heroin addict (Darren Healy) who attempts to steal his earnings. Lured by his music, an unnamed young Czech immigrant flower seller (listed in the credits as "Girl", played by Markéta Irglová) approaches him and, despite his annoyance, persists in questioning him about his songs. Delighted to learn that he also repairs vacuum cleaners in his father's shop, she insists that he fix her broken cleaner.
The next day she brings her Hoover by and parlays it into lunch together, whereupon she piques his interest by telling him that she is a musician, too. He asks to hear her play, so they visit a music store where she regularly plays piano. After teaching her one of his songs ("Falling Slowly"), which she quickly learns to play, they sing and play the song together, kindling a musical and potentially romantic connection. He invites her and her ailing vacuum back to his father's shop, and on the bus home musically answers her question as to what his songs are about: a long-time girlfriend who cheated on him, then left ("Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy").
At the shop, he repairs her vacuum and she meets his father (Bill Hodnett), who seems indifferent to his son's musical talent. The Guy takes the Girl up to his room, but when he asks her to stay the night, she is insulted and leaves. The next day, he apologizes and they quickly patch things up, as over the course of a week they excitedly write, rehearse and record songs, and get to know each other. Songs continue to be performed in a real-world, diegetic fashion, often in their entirety, as when the Girl rehearses her lyrics for one of the Guy's songs (which she entitles "If You Want Me"), singing to herself while walking down the street, or when at a party, people perform impromptu (including "Gold", performed by a trio featuring guitarist Hansard singing harmony).
Their flirtation continues, but at the same time, he is thinking about and writing about ("Lies") his ex-girlfriend (Marcella Plunkett), who moved to London. The Girl encourages him to move there, win his girlfriend back and pursue his musical career. Invited home to dinner by the Girl, the Guy discovers that she has a toddler (Kate Haugh) and lives with her mother (Danuse Ktrestova). He soon decides that it is time to move to London, but he wants to make a high-quality demo of his songs to take with him and asks the Girl to record it with him. She takes the lead as they secure a bank loan—from a bank where the loan officer (Sean Miller) is a musical hobbyist—and reserve time at a professional studio.
On a romantic motorbike jaunt, she reveals, much to his consternation, that she is married, though her estranged husband is back in the Czech Republic. When Guy asks if she still loves her husband, she answers in Czech, "Miluju tebe", but coyly declines to translate what she said. After recruiting a trio of musicians (Gerard Hendrick, Alaistair Foley, Hugh Walsh), they rehearse, then go into the studio to record. Their lack of experience shows, but they quickly impress the jaded studio engineer Eamon (Geoff Minogue) once they begin recording their first song ("When Your Mind's Made Up"). On a break in the wee hours of the morning, the Girl finds a piano in an empty studio and finally plays the Guy one of her own compositions ("The Hill"), which tells of romantic frustration. She breaks down before finishing the song and he responds by asking her to come with him to London, but is not prepared for the reality of her mother coming along to help with the baby.
Still, he is smitten. After the all-night session wraps up successfully, they walk home. Before they part ways, the Girl reveals that she spoke to her husband and he is coming to live with her in Dublin. The Guy asks her to spend his last night in Dublin with him; she says that it would only result in "hanky-panky", which is a "bad idea", but after the Guy's pestering she ultimately agrees to come over. In the end, she stands him up and he cannot find her to say goodbye before his flight. He plays the demo for his father, who, moved and impressed, gives him money to help him get settled in London. Before leaving for the airport, the Guy buys the Girl a piano and makes arrangements for its delivery, then calls his ex-girlfriend, who is happy about his imminent arrival. The Girl's husband (Senan Haugh) moves to Dublin and they reunite.
Hansard's busking scenes were filmed on Grafton Street.
Neither of the two leads is a trained or experienced actor; Hansard and Irglová are both professional musicians. Director Carney, former bassist for Hansard's band The Frames, had asked his long-time friend to share busker anecdotes and compose songs for the film, but had intended the male lead to be played by actor Cillian Murphy, who was an almost-signed rock musician before turning to acting. Murphy was also going to be one of the film's producers. But Murphy balked at acting opposite non-actor Irglová (then 17 years old) and at singing Hansard's octave-leaping songs, so he pulled out, as did the film's other producers along with their financial resources. Carney then turned to songwriter Hansard, who'd previously done only one acting job, a supporting role as guitarist Outspan Foster in the 1991 ensemble film The Commitments, the story of a Dublin soul music cover band. Hansard was initially reluctant, fearing that he wouldn't be able to pull it off, but after stipulating that he had to be fully involved in the filmmaking process and that it be low-budget and intimate, he agreed.
Produced with a shoestring budget, about 75% of the budget was funded by Bord Scannán na hÉireann (The Irish Film Board), plus some of Carney's own money. The director gave his salary to the two stars, and promised a share of the back-end for everyone if the film was a success. Shot with a skeleton crew on a 17-day shoot, the filmmakers saved money by using natural light and shooting at friends' houses. The musical party scene was filmed in Hansard's own flat, with his personal friends playing the partygoers/musicians—his mother, Catherine Hansard, is briefly featured singing solo. The Dublin street scenes were recorded without permits and with a long lens so that many passersby didn't even realize that a film was being made. The long lens also helped the non-professional actors relax and forget about the camera, and some of the dialogue ended up being improvised.
During the shoot, Carney had predicted a romance, calling Hansard and Irglová his Bogart and Bacall. Hansard and Irglová did become a couple in real life, getting together while on a promotional tour across North America, and living together in Dublin, in Hansard's flat. Entertainment Weekly reported,
||The chemistry between (the) two leads ... was easy to produce during the January 2006 shoot in Dublin. "I had been falling in love with her for a long time, but I kept telling myself she's just a kid", says Hansard, 37, who has known his 19-year-old costar for the past six years. (The two are now dating.) "There was definitely the feeling we were documenting something precious and private."
Subsequently, Hansard indicated that that they were no longer a romantic couple. He said, "Of course, we fell into each other's arms. It was a very necessary part of our friendship but I think we both concluded that that wasn't what we really wanted to do. So we're not together now. We are just really good friends."
Yet Hansard and Irglová were quite happy with the unrequited ending for their onscreen characters. In an interview, Hansard states that "Had Fox Searchlight Pictures changed it, had they changed the end and made us kiss, I wouldn't be interested in coming and promoting it, at all." Hansard says that ad-libbing produced the moment where Irglova's character tells the Guy in unsubtitled Czech, "I love you", but when it was shot, he didn't know what she'd said, just like his character.
Both Hansard and Irglova give the impression in interviews that they are unlikely to pursue further acting. Irglova has spoken about being nervous in front of a crew, saying "I don't think I would be a good actress, overall", and Hansard generally refers to the movie as a one-off, talking of "moving on... living a different life".
The soundtrack album was released on May 22, 2007 in the U.S. and on May 26 in Ireland.
A collector's edition of the soundtrack was released on December 4, 2007 with additional songs and a bonus DVD with live performances and interviews about the film. The additional songs were two previously unreleased Van Morrison covers: Hansard's "And the Healing Has Begun", and Hansard and Irglová's "Into the Mystic".
Different versions of a few of the soundtrack's songs were previously released on The Frames' album The Cost and on Hansard and Irglová's The Swell Season (both released in 2006). An early version of the last track, "Say It to Me Now," originally appeared on The Frames' 1995 albumFitzcarraldo. "All the Way Down" first appeared on the self-titled album from musician collective The Cake Sale, with Gemma Hayes providing vocals. The song "Gold" was written by Irish singer-songwriter Fergus O'Farrell and performed by Interference.
Awards and accolades
The nomination of "Falling Slowly" for the best original song Oscar was questioned because of the different versions previously released on The Cost and The Swell Season. The AMPAS music committee determined that, in the course of the film's protracted production, the composers had "played the song in some venues that were deemed inconsequential enough to not change the song’s eligibility". "Falling Slowly" won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Original Song.
The soundtrack was nominated for two 2008 Grammy Awards, under Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media and, for "Falling Slowly", Best Song Written for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. It won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Music., and it was ranked at number two on the Entertainment Weekly 25 New Classic Soundtrack Albums list (1983–2008).
The soundtrack album reached #20 on the Irish Albums Chart in its first week, peaking at #15 a few weeks later. Following the Oscar win, the album reached the top of the chart, while "Falling Slowly" reached a new peak of #2.
In the U.S., it ranked as the #10 soundtrack on June 1. As of July 11, 2007, the album has sold 54,753 copies in the US. The album reached #27 on the Billboard 200 according to Allmusic. It also reached #2 on the Soundtracks Chart and #4 on the Independent Chart.
All songs written and composed by Glen Hansard, except where noted.
||"Falling Slowly" (Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglová)
||Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglová
||"If You Want Me" (Irglová)
||Irglová and Hansard
||"Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy"
||"When Your Mind's Made Up"
||Hansard and Irglová
||"Lies" (Hansard, Irglová)
||Hansard and Irglová
||"Gold" (Fergus O'Farrell)
||"The Hill" (Irglová)
||"Fallen from the Sky"
||"Trying to Pull Myself Away"
||"All the Way Down"
||Hansard and Irglová
||"Say It to Me Now"
||"And the Healing Has Begun" (Van Morrison, Collector's Edition only)
||"Into the Mystic" (Morrison, Collector's Edition only)
||Hansard and Irglová
Box office performance and awards
A rough cut premiered at the 2006 Galway Film Fleadh, but the film was subsequently turned down by several prestigious European film festivals. However, it secured spots at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and the Dublin Film Festival and received the audience awards at both events in early 2007.
After its second weekend in release in the United States and Canada, the film topped the 23 May 2007 indieWIRE box office chart with nearly $31,000 average per location. As of 28 March 2009, Once has grossed nearly $9.5 million in North America and over $20 million worldwide. After 2007's box office success and critical acclaim, it won the 2008 Independent Spirit Award for best foreign film. Steven Spielberg was quoted as saying "A little movie called Once gave me enough inspiration to last the rest of the year". When informed of Spielberg's comments, director John Carney told Sky News, "in the end of the day, he's just a guy with a beard". At the time of this interview, Carney himself was also wearing a beard.
Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová would reprise their roles in The Simpsons episode "In the Name of the Grandfather".
Upon its March 2007 release in Ireland, RTÉ's Caroline Hennessy gave the film 4 out of 5 stars and termed it "an unexpected treasure". About the acting, this Irish reviewer commented, "Once has wonderfully natural performances from the two leads. Although musicians first and actors second, they acquit themselves well in both areas. Irglová, a largely unknown quantity alongside the well-known and either loved or loathed Hansard, is luminous." Michael Dwyer of The Irish Times gave the film the same rating, calling it "irresistibly appealing" and noting that "Carney makes the point - without ever labouring it - that his protagonists are living in a changing city where the economic boom has passed them by. His keen eye for authentic locations is ... evident".
In May, Ebert & Roeper, both Richard Roeper and guest critic Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave enthusiastic reviews. Phillips called it, "the most charming thing I've seen all year", "the Brief Encounter for the 21st century", his favorite music film since 1984's Stop Making Sense and said, "It may well be the best music film of our generation". Roeper referred to the film's recording studio scene as "more inspirational and uplifting than almost any number of Dreamgirls or Chicago or any of those multi-zillion dollar musical showstopping films. In its own way, it will blow you away." Once won very high marks from U.S. critics; it is rated 97% "fresh" by the film review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes and scored a grade of 88 ("universal acclaim") according to Metacritic
In late 2007, Amy Simmons of Time Out London wrote, "Carney’s highly charged, urban mise-en-scène with its blinking street lamps, vacant shops and dishevelled bed-sits provides ample poetic backdrop for the film’s lengthy tracking shots, epitomised in a sequence where the Girl walks to the corner shop in pyjamas and slippers while listening to one of the Guy’s songs on her personal stereo. With outstanding performances from Hansard and new-comer Irglová, Carney has created a sublime, visual album of unassuming and self-assured eloquence." The Telegraph's Sukhdev Sandhu said, "Not since Before Sunset has a romantic film managed to be as touching, funny or as hard to forget as Once. Like Before Sunset, it never outstays its welcome, climaxing on a note of rare charm and unexpectedness."
The film appeared on many North American critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007:
- 1st - Michael Phillips, The Chicago Tribune
- 1st - Nathan Rabin, The A.V. Club
- 2nd - David Germain, Associated Press
- 2nd - Kevin Crust, Los Angeles Times
- 2nd - Kyle Smith, New York Post
- 2nd - Shawn Levy, The Oregonian
- 2nd - Roger Moore, The Orlando Sentinel
- 2nd - Robert Butler, Kansas City Star
- 2nd - Staff, Paste Magazine
- 3rd - Christy Lemire, Associated Press
- 3rd - Tasha Robinson, The A.V. Club
- 3rd - Andrew Gray, Tribune Chronicle
- 3rd - Sean Means, Salt Lake Tribune
- 4th - Keith Phipps, The A.V. Club
- 4th - Christopher Kelly, Star Telegram
- 5th - Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
- 5th - Desson Thomson, The Washington Post
- 5th - Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
- 6th - Ella Taylor, LA Weekly
- 6th - Nick Digilio, WGN-AM
- 7th - Claudia Puig, USA Today
- 7th - Dana Stevens, Slate
- 7th - Scott Tobias, The A.V. Club
- 7th - Scott Mantz, Access Hollywood
- 7th - Craig Outhier, Orange County Register
- 8th - Liam Lacey and Rick Groen, The Globe and Mail
- 8th - Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly
- 8th - Stephanie Zacharek, Salon
- 9th - Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal
- 9th - Michael Rechtshaffen, The Hollywood Reporter
- 9th - Richard Roeper, At the Movies with Ebert & Roeper
- 9th - Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
- 9th - Carina Chocano, Los Angeles Times
- 9th - James Verniere, Boston Herald
- 10th - Bob Mondello, NPR
- 10th - Peter Vonder Haar, Film Threat
In 2008, the film placed third on Entertainment Weekly's "25 Best Romantic Movies of the Past 25 Years".
Fox Home Entertainment released the Region 2 DVD in November 2007 and the Region 1 DVD on December 18. Special features include film and musical commentaries from the director and stars, a free download of "Falling Slowly", and several featurettes.
- Weisman, Jon. "Once Upon a Time", Variety, July 18, 2007. Accessed 11 August 2007.
- IMDb box office information
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- Once at Rotten Tomatoes
- Metacritic entry for Once
- MovieZone.cz | Once (2006) | Recenze
- Scott, A. O. "Movie Review: Once", The New York Times, 16 May 2007. Accessed 21 April 2008.
- CHUD.com cast and director interview from May 14, 2007
- O'Hagan, Sean. "'I just want to challenge myself with each role'", The Observer, 11 June 2006. Accessed 8 August 2006.
- The Gazette from April 14, 2007
- YouTube interview 3 of 4 with Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova
- du Lac, J. Freedom. "Making a Name for Themselves: 'Once's' Guy and Girl, In Tune On- and Off-Screen, Shed Their Anonymity", The Washington Post, 17 February, 2008. Accessed 21 April 2008.
- Pedersen, Erik. Once Is Not Enough: Summer's Secret Smash - Interview with Glen Hansard, E! Online, August 24, 2007. Accessed January 14, 2008.
- Once video interview with stv.tv
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- "Winner: Music (Song)", Oscars.com. Accessed 28 February 2007.
- "50th annual Grammy Awards nominations (part II)", Variety, 6 December 2007. Accessed 10 December 2007.
- L.A. critics call for 'Blood', Variety, 9 December 2007.
- "25 New Classic Soundtrack Albums" Entertainment Weekly, 17 June, 2008. Accessed 12 August 2008.
- "Top 50 Singles"/"Top 100 Individual Artist Albums", Irish Recorded Music Association. Accessed 8 March 2007.
- Billboard from the June 9, 2007 issue
- Dawtrey, Adam. "Once director remains close to roots: Carney to make Zonad before Fox's House", Variety, 17 August 2007. Accessed 1 March 2008.
- Dwyer, Michael. "Street sweethearts", The Irish Times, 23 March 2007. Accessed 1 March 2008.
- indieWIRE box office chart from May 23, 2007.
- Kilday, Gregg. "Indie Spirits: Juno wins best feature", The Hollywood Reporter, 24 February 2007. Accessed 1 March 2008.
- Willmore, Alison. "The Winners of the 2007 Spirit Awards", IFC.com, 23 February 2008. Accessed 1 March 2008.
- Breznican, Anthony. "'Once' isn't enough: Film gets marketing push", USA Today, 7 August 2007. Accessed 9 August 2007.
- Hennessy, Caroline. "Once". RTÉ.ie, 22 March 2007. Accessed 1 March 2008.
- Ebert & Roeper review from the weekend of 18 May 2007
- Simmons, Amy. "Once", Time Out London, October 17-23 2007. Accessed 1 March 2008.
- "Film reviews: Rendition and Once", The Telegraph, 19 October 2007. Accessed 1 March 2008.
- Metacritic: 2007 Film Critic Top Ten Lists, Metacritic. Accessed 5 January 2008.
- Germain, David and Lemire, Christy. "No Country for Old Men earns nod from AP critics", Associated Press via Columbia Daily Tribune, December 27, 2007. Accessed December 31, 2007.
- "The 2007 Top Tens: The Critics", MovieCityNews.com. Accessed 1 May 2008.
- WGN Radio - "Best Of" Lists
- Foster, Dave. "Region 1 DVD release of Once", DVDTimes.co.uk, October 12, 2007. Accessed October 28, 2007.