Posted by: Ken Brown | February 22, 2008

Once Again, Hope and Sacrifice

Have you seen Once? I watched it this week (actually, I watched it twice), and it truly is an excellent film. Made on a shoe-string budget, this refreshingly unconventional love story boasts some good acting and a lot of fantastic music (which you can listen to here; nearly the whole amazing soundtrack was written by the two leads – Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová). It does include some very salty language, but otherwise it’s clean and has a great message. The story takes place in Dublin and centers on a street musician and a piano-playing single mother (they don’t have names, just “guy” and “girl” in the credits) who are both struggling with their pasts and unsure of their futures, but find common ground in their music.

It’s an engaging story with some unexpected twists, but what I really appreciate is the moral undercurrent to the film. It stresses not only real unconditional love (not mere romantic infatuation), but also the tensions between courage and responsibility, desire and commitment. The essential choice faced by each of these characters is well summed up by the Academy Award nominated song “Falling Slowly,” which frames their relationship (again, you can listen to it here):

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can’t go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I’m painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you won

Take this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you have a choice
You’ve made it now

I don’t want to give too much of the plot away, but I will mention one particular scene that I only understood the second time through: At one point they take a motorcycle ride on his dad’s bike. The conversation that follows is the turning point of the film, but immediately afterwards they get into this seemingly meaningless argument – she wants to drive the bike, but he doesn’t think she should. She begs, but he refuses since it’s not his and he’s not even sure he should have taken it out in the first place. The scene ends without letting us know whether he gave in or not.

At first, this argument just seemed awkward and unnecessary, but now I think it actually symbolizes the center around which the whole film turns. These characters have found life and joy again, and given each other a glimpse of hope and a way forward, but here they are reminded of their past obligations. This leaves them with a crucial decision to make: either to toss aside their commitments for the sake of the moment, or to do the right thing, even if it means sacrificing something they both want.

I won’t spoil anything more, but if you have seen it, I’d love to hear your reactions. If you haven’t, I highly recommend it!

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