The flipside of that is that we have added so many films to our wanted list that sometimes things drop through letterbox that we have no recollection of hearing or reading about. So it was a couple of years ago, when a DVD called Once appeared. One of us must have read about it somewhere, or had it recommended, but the brief synopsis on the DVD sleeve did not sound promising, so it lay unwatched for a week or so. One evening, with a dozing Lara on my lap I decided to pop it in the DVD player and oh my goodness...
The story of an Irish busker and a young Czech girl who meet by chance and strike up an unlikely and joyous friendship through their shared love of music, a connection which becomes deeper and more loving than either of them expected.
This is a love story that pulls at the heart strings, a will they/won't they of clashing cultures and confused lives; this 'once' could be the perfect love, the soulmate, or it could be simply a brief encounter to remember fondly with a wistful tear in the eye. But above all that is the heartwarming coming together of two individuals who might otherwise never have met, a Czech girl and an Irish guy in Dublin, both with baggage, hers more present than his, and how their brief time together is a thing of beauty and potentially lost or found love.
It is a beautiful, beautiful film, made even more so by the stunning music by Folk duo The Swell Season, also the film's stars. The film was shot in just 17 days on a budget of £100,000 and could narrowly be described as an Irish take on love stories like Ethan Hawke's Before Sunrise or the classic Brief Encounter. But it is so much more than that, and when you learn that the haunting but uplifting signature song of the piece, Falling Slowly, won the Best Original Song Oscar in 2007, you begin to understand why. This is music entwined in film, the one medium transmuted into the other.
However, beautiful and wonderful as it is, Once does not scream Broadway musical, yet with some slight sympathetic reworking, that is what it has become, and it has now opened in London at the Phoenix Theatre in Charing Cross Road, an often overlooked theatre but one of my favourite London spaces. Having won an incredible 8 Tony Awards on Broadway, this musical is well worth a trip to town for. The music alone, live, would be more than enough to entice me! It is just beautiful on so many levels, I urge you to go and see it.