Written by John Carney and starring the writers of the featured music, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, this is a poignant and lifelike music film of struggling yet hopeful artists living in the Dublin cityscape. For those of you who know his work, John Carney does low-budget, independent films of this kind and one of his most well-known productions made it into the big screen in 2013 with Kiera Knightley, Adam Levine and Mark Ruffalo. “Begin Again” featured the song “Lost Stars.”
When the leading man meets the leading lady while busking with a guitar on the street, she decidedly makes the first move. Irglová gives a charming performance as a persistent, poised and mature Czech woman. Although not an actor himself, Hansard plays off her well as a down-to-earth Irish guy trying to make living and still follow his passion. She is insicive about his past love life which he writes about in his song and invites him to lunch after happily insisting he fix her broken vacuum cleaner.
What that would mean in 2006 I don’t know, but they develop a bond over music, as they are both singer-songwriters. He asks her to spend the night and she refuses, with a “fuck this.” He’s a lonely guy and she’s a gorgeous girl; the next day he promises her it won’t happen again and they can be friends, but what she doesn’t tell him until later in the film is that she’s in a namesake marriage with the father of her child.
The film undoubtedly gets most of its traction from its performance scenes but also its very human interactions. The most famous one is the scene in the piano shop where she goes often to play and where they perform “Falling Slowly.” Whereas that is the swell of initial attraction, the surreptitious backstage ballad or her moving rehearsal of lyrics to his music give insight into the characters backstory as their relationship blossoms. The actual busking, recording and listening back of the album they work on stages the kind of access hard to find without actually being on-the-ground in music production and performance. The comic opening sequence in which a man tries to rob the hero’s busking earnings and gets chased down the street almost steals the show. The scenario where he sneaks his dad’s bike away to take her on a ride is touching, his earnest and her playful back-and-forth are relatable. It also paints a fair representation picture of foreigners living in Ireland.
It’s hard to come to a verdict on the two young people’s relationship. We never find out the meaning of the Croatian answer she gives him as to whether she loves her husband. His ex, who he writes songs for, who he’s going to revisit and who later stands him up, isn’t mentioned when they see each other. When he asks, for what seems like the twentieth time, whether she’ll come over to his apartment and spend time alone with him, she merely comments that it will end in hanky panky and “would be interesting.” She gives nothing away, yet we have to ask, if she feels she has responsibility to her child why does she let him get close to her in the first place? In the end, it’s an understandable and affecting closing, a almost-love story of a tangential connection that ends in ‘once, I knew this girl…’