ONCE

A new take on the musical tradition, ONCE is an interesting and different sentimental drama and it's hitting UK screens soon.

hip as it unfolds on screen. The absence of plot-points and dramatic scenarios might sound risky, a portent for a dull and pretentious diatribe on the 'true essence' of human relationships, but actually the complete focus on music as the driving force for the feelings between the two main protaganists made for captivating viewing. By avoiding sensationalism in the production, Carney has achieved a strong sense of continuity, and the story flows through its meagre contents with surprising depth and power. The purity of expression that came with the musical centre of the film was perfectly complemented by the cinematic style. There was no sheen from the editing suites, the camera work was often unsteady and reactive and the acting was mercifully lacking in the melodrama and overplayed reaction shots which plague standard romance films. There were occasional moments where I found myself slightly uncomfortable as the film dwelled onto the more archetypal - like when Guy (Glen Hansard's busker) is writing and singing a new song as he watches a corny montage of his time with a former girlfriend - but broadly speaking I was just absorbed into the world that was being created on screen, and simply followed its flow right through to its unexpected yet strangely natural conclusion. Another great thing about Once is the chemistry between the cast. Glen Hansard was originally only called in to contribute songs, but after collaborating over the songs and discussing the script Carney decided that Hansard, who had only limited acting experience in the past, should take on the lead role as well. Likewise musician Marketa Iglova, who plays the female lead, was only 17 at the time and had no previous acting experience at all. Carney's opinion on the matter was that "non actors... give you their all. Because they're unlikely to be makin any more films in their lives, they really put themselves on the line for you." The consequence of this audacious casting move is an strong, yet understated, chemistry between two people who really understand the core message of expression through music. The film is not entirely without its shortcomings. With songs as the centrepiece some audiences may find the relentless ballads of the time-honoured 'singer-songwriter' tradition a bit tiresome, or not to their taste, and with this in mind it may be even harder to see how those around the main characters draw so much hope and joy from it, and some of the more dialogue or plot-driven parts of the film are also a bit rough around the edges. But nonetheless, this movie is a genre-busting, thought-provoking and absorbing piece of cinema which shares the innovative spirit of such films as Lars von Trier's DANCER IN THE DARK. Its nod to musicals of the past carves a new niche for musical films of the future and I seriously think that this rewarding piece of cinema will give you something back if you give it a chance.

rating: 4

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Michael J Edwards hasn't written a bio just yet, but if they had... it would appear here.