Once (4 stars)

This article is from 2007.

(John Carney, Ireland, 2006) 88min

This Belfast-set musical romance about a lovelorn busker and a Czech immigrant single mother who get together to make music is a sort of low-key The Commitments (and Glen Hansard of Irish rock band The Frames appears in both films). It’s got its antecedent’s energising combination of ballsy underdog attitude and bittersweet passion, which probably accounts for Once becoming a sleeper hit in America following its Audience Award win at the Sundance Film Festival.

Written and directed by former Frames band member turned filmmaker John Carney, in collaboration with Hansard who provided the songs, Once is also a very unconventional musical. Shot on digital video on the cold streets and in the creaky tenements of Dublin, and with the songs worked into the storyline so that they become an integral part of it, the film has more in common, in aesthetic terms, with Lars von Trier and Björk’s genre-busting musical, Dancing in the Dark.

Unlike that doom-laden film, however, Once is an uplifting and optimistic experience which never become sentimental or trite. That’s largely down to Hansard and his co-star Marketa Irglova (a 19-year-old musician from Prague with whom The Frames frontman recently recorded an album of duets), who create some lovely, and no doubt genuine, screen chemistry. (Miles Fielder)

Cameo, 623 8030, 24 Aug, 7.30pm & 25 Aug, 1.30pm, £7.95 (£5.50).

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