This sweet, lo-fi musical romance about a Dublin busker and an immigrant single mother who meet in the streets and record a demo tape together is a real charmer. Glen Hansard plays the nameless “guy” who belts out songs on a battered guitar and pines for his long-gone girlfriend; Marketa Irglova is the “girl” who likes his songs and begins to accompany him on the piano. During the days, the guy fixes vacuum cleaners, which leads to a nice visual joke of the girl pulling a Hoover through downtown Dublin; she has a child and mother at home and perhaps even more of a life back in the Czech Republic.

The production isn’t half as polished as Hustle & Flow or The Commitments (in which Hansard also appeared), and that’s a good thing; Once has an authentic indie feel, with many scenes that seem to be shot on the run. The music is heartfelt and fresh, and the movie doesn’t have a cynical bone in its body. It’s the genuine article: a winning story told with simple grace and humanity. More soon for About.com when Once opens on May 18th.

Once. John Carney, 2006. ****

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