Author Heidi Rice mines her treasure trove of small movies to bring you an Irish indie treat that's definitely worth a look if you like your romance subtle, sweet and quirky.
With my DH working some evening shifts and my boys now old enough to rarely be at home in the evenings, I've had the Apple TV control all to myself recently. And I've loved the freedom of flicking through the free movie offerings on Netflix and picking a few at random to watch. Needless to say some of them turn out to be dogs. But every so often I discover something magical that makes the quest into the unknown worthwhile. And Once, a small independent Irish movie shot on handicams about a lovelorn Irish busker and an East European migrant worker with a young child is one of those movies.
The busker is played by Glen Hansard and the migrant worker by Markéta Irglová with so much freshness and understated charm that it's not hard to believe you're watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary instead of a drama. In fact you almost are, because these two were actually struggling independent musicians when they made the movie.
But perhaps what's most refreshing of all is that their story - about how they connect through their music one evenful week in Dublin - evolves entirely realistically too. This isn't so much a love story - as the story of a friendship. It all kicks off as we watch the rumpled, slightly depressed Hansard playing cover versions on O'Connell Street and not having much fun at all. People pinch his tips, his girlfriend has buggered off to London, and its soul-destroying to play other people's songs when you have some of your own that noone will pay to hear. But then along comes Irglova one evening, when Hansard has taken a rare chance to play one of his own compositions and she's instantly intrigued... And tells him so in a forthright way that intrigues him right back. After a wryly funny bit of business with a broken hoover - the two begin to connect with Irglova (who just happens to be a talented lyricist) badgering Hansard (in a wonderfully oblique way) to get his song(s) recorded.
The story drifts along from there, lilting and lyrical, and we discover these two people - their struggles, their disappointments, their talents - through their developing friendship as they hire a recording studio for a long weekend to put together a demo tape. Will the songs be hits? Will they remain friends? Will they become more than friends? Their are no obvious answers to those questions, as we live these hectic and ultimately uplifting few days, but the movie is wonderfully honest and appealing at every turn. And the songs aren't bad either! With Falling Slowly (written by Irglova and Hansard) winning the Best Original Song Oscar.
Once is definitely worth a look if you're in the mood for a quirky trip to Ireland's Fair City in the company of two little people who give each other the hope to dream big.
Heidi's last Harlequin KISS, Beach Bar Baby, is out now in the US and the UK. Get in touch with her through her website, her blog, on Facebook or Twitter (@HeidiRomRice).