Once (2006)

What’s so interesting to me about Once is how it’s a romantic musical that defies the conventions of both the romance and the musical.

This is a movie friends have recommended to me for years. But it was always very respectful, as in, “I think you’d really like Once.” Why no one grabbed me by the shirt collar and yelled, “Go see this movie NOW,” I will never understand.

What a charming movie. And I mean that—it truly charmed me.

The characters are people you’d totally want to be friends with, and I really liked getting to know them over the course of the movie, but I was initially won over by the music, in particular the passion in the music.

The characters themselves are very reserved like most real people—they don’t behave like movie people—and the music provides a great emotional contrast to the more restrained and protected emotions the characters portray.

They act like real people. They hide what they’re feeling, or at least downplay it; they certainly don’t make big emotional speeches about it. But they do express themselves through their music. So the songs provide those peaks and valleys as windows into the deeper feelings of these characters.

And the songs are beautiful. My favorite scene (and favorite song) is where Glen teaches Marketa how to play “Falling Slowly” in the music store. The song tells us all we need to know about the spark of connection between them.

If you don’t want to risk spoilers, stop reading now. Otherwise…

What I loved most was how real the romance felt, at least real in the sense that it resembled more closely what I’ve experienced romance to be than the typical Hollywood portrayal. Most of my romantic connections (consummated or not) ended with a feeling of “I wonder what could have been.” It’s the mystery and magic of missed opportunities, bittersweet. I can’t relate to these Hollywood romances where every relationship is a perfectly inevitable collision of destinies. That’s not how I’ve experienced life, and it rings false to me.

I so wanted these characters to get together, but their paths ultimately lead them away from each other. That doesn’t make the brief intersection of those paths any less satisfying to me. It’s the depth of our connection with people while they are in our lives that’s important because nothing is forever and once may be all we get.

More info at IMDb, RottenTomatoes, and Amazon.com.

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