ONCE. 2006. WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY JOHN CARNEY. STARRING GLEN HANSARD AND MARKETA IRGLOVA. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
Dubliners like myself are well used to the sight of young fellas wandering around the place with guitars strapped to their backs. Every second guy in Ireland’s capital who can string a guitar is looking for a record deal. This gorgeous film tells the story of a singer-songwriter from Dublin’s fair city who busks his own material on Grafton Street when he’s not working in his widower dad’s vacuum-cleaner repair shop.
Guitar Guy is played by bona-fide musician Glen Hansard, the frontman of the band The Frames. We don’t ever get to find out the guy’s name, or the girl’s, for that matter, which is kind of romantic and mysterious.
So, one day the guy is busking on Grafton Street- that’s only a short walk from my house!- when a young woman stops and listens to his music and gives him ten whole cents for his trouble. They get talking and, next day, she turns up on Grafton Street again with her hoover for him to fix. That’s the kind of kooky, eccentric thing this chick does, see…?
Dragging the hoover behind her, she accompanies him to Waltons’ music shop on Georges Street- again, I know where that is!- and they jam together for a bit. He plays her the Oscar-winning song, Falling Slowly, she plays the piano while he strums his guitar and, by the time the song ends, they’re each a little bit in love with each other.
She’s from the Czech Republic and she lives in a flat with her baby daughter Ivanka and her mum. She’s left a husband behind her because things haven’t really worked out between them. Having said that, though, she doesn’t want her daughter to grow up without a dad, either. She supports her small family by cleaning houses and selling flowers and copies of The Big Issue on Grafton Street. Yep folks, it’s all happening on Grafton Street…
Over the course of a few days, Guitar Guy and Crazy Hoover Lady get to know each other. They have a shared love of music and she gives him the confidence to believe in the songs he writes, many of which were written about a girl with whom he broke up because she cheated on him but on whom he’s still hung up. Obsessed might be a better word…
He decides to record some of these songs with Crazy Hoover Lady on piano and vocals and they turn out brilliantly. Now all the pair need to do is to sort out their feelings for each other and their respective exes. That’s not as straightforward as laying down a few tracks in a rented studio, however…
The songs are great and, if you’re from Dublin like me, you’ll spend the whole time you’re watching it going:
‘I know that street! I know that park! Look, it’s Temple Bar! Hey, there’s O’Connell Street! Oh my God, it’s Georges Street Arcade/the old HMV/Bruxelles/the statue of Phil Lynott/that junkie who always dances to the buskers’ music…!’
The love story between Guitar Guy and Crazy Hoover Lady is sweet and will speak to anyone who’s ever found their emotional and physical baggage dictating which way their lives will turn out. There’s at least one scene in the film that is completely unbelievable, but I’ll leave you to work out for yourself which one that is.
There’s a lot of humour in it too, like when the foreign nationals are all settled down having a good old laugh at Ireland’s longest-running soap opera, Fair City. Overall, this is a great watch. If you need the cockles of your heart warmed, as we say here in Ireland, then dig this film out. It’ll do the job, and then some.
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger, sex blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn, Le Dernier Paradis at the Trinity Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival.
Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issues magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. In August 2014, she won the ONE LOVELY BLOG award for her (lovely!) horror film review blog. She is addicted to buying books and has been known to bring home rain-washed tomes she finds on the street and give them a home.
She is the proud possessor of a pair of unfeasibly large bosoms. They have given her- and the people around her- infinite pleasure over the years. She adores the horror genre in all its forms and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia. She would also be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man. You can contact her at: