If you haven't already, proceed immediately to see Once. A gentle love story made for next to no money, and featuring nobody you've likely ever heard of, it's truly the most magical movie I've seen in years.
Admittedly I'm biased - but then what critic isn't, really? I have a deep and abiding love for Ireland - we still dream of the day that we leave the US and live there. From the opening scenes on Grafton Street and St Stephen's Green (pictured from our trip a couple years back), Dublin plays as much a role in the film as any other character, complete with the grit, gentle melancholy, and deep vein of joy that so entranced us when we visited. Certainly a lot of my pleasure in the film is the wonderful way that Dublin is captured (on DV, and in mostly natural light)- it is everything that I remember, and exactly as I remember it. There's the spot where Boo and I stood, watching the immense holiday crowds on Grafton Street! That bus! They're sitting right in the seats where Boo and I had that squabble! The buskers! The ocean! Sandymount, where Boo and I stumbled on a St Stephen's Day celebration! Everything is so recognizable, and realistic and wonderful.
The other characters are "the guy" and "the girl"; a street musician and vacuum cleaner repairman, and a Czech immigrant working a variety of odd jobs (look! She's selling The Big Issue!) They meet and begin a tentative romance of sorts, inspiring each other's music and rewarming hearts grown cold from bitter relationships in their pasts. It's a gentle, humorous, touching, and meandering sort of story that neither develops exactly the way you expect, nor resolves quite as you anticipate. The performances are unforced, and the emotions are spot-on. I've seldom seen a friendship between a man and a woman caught so realistically.
Perhaps the most amazing thing after all that, is that this movie is also a musical, albeit a musical unlike any other I've seen. Songs are delivered in their entirety, but in natural situations - sung on street corners for money, at gatherings of friends and neighbors, and, in a particularly beautiful scene, on a late-night street in a flurry of creative outpouring only briefly hampered by the need for new batteries. Yet the songs are more than product for our characters; they also further the story, give voice to internal emotions and conversations, and chart the course of the relationship as it develops. They are also beautiful, catchy, and wonderfully performed. I'll be listening to the soundtrack for weeks to come. It's an absolutely magical, absolutely Irish, and absolutely rapturous movie experience. If it's showing near you, go at once; if it isn't, put it on your Netflix queue right now.
Directed and written by John Carney, starring Glen Hansard (of the band The Frames) and Markéta Irglová, and featuring songs written and performed by Hansard and Irglová.