Cast: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova
Oscar Wins: Best Original Song (“Falling Slowly” — Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova)
SUMMARY: The two main characters of this film are never named, simply referred to as “Guy” and “Girl”, so that’s what I’m going to call them here. In Dublin, Ireland, Guy (Glen Hansard) works with his father in a Hoover (vacuum) repair shop by day. However, on his breaks and in his free time, he indulges his true passion: music. He sings on the street for change, while accompanying himself on the guitar. During the day, he performs songs that everybody knows, but at night he begins playing his own music. One night, Czech immigrant Girl (Marketa Irglova) confronts him about this, saying that his own music is very good. When he tells her that he fixes Hoovers, she gets excited, as her own is broken. She promises to bring it by the next day. To Guy’s surprise, she doesn’t come by the shop with the vacuum, but drags it through the street until she finds him. As the two walk together, Guy learns that Girl is also a musician — a piano player. He later learns that she lives with her mother and young daughter, whose father is back in the Czech Republic. Girl takes him to a music store where the owner lets her play the pianos. Guy quickly teaches her one of his original songs, and the two play an impromptu duet. They then go back to the Hoover shop and fix the vacuum. On the way, Guy tells Girl that his original songs are about a girlfriend that cheated on him, then moved to London. After fixing the Hoover, he asks Girl to spend the night, but she is disgusted and leaves. Guy does manage to find her the next day and apologize. They see each other repeatedly during the week, and he even asks her to try writing some lyrics for a song he wrote.
Girl believes that Guy should try to get back together with his ex-girlfriend, but he is unsure about this. Ultimately, he decides to try, and makes plans to move to London. However, he wants to record some of his songs before he leaves. He asks Girl to play and sing on the recording, and recruits other street musicians to fill out the band. Despite his intention to get back together with his old girlfriend, Guy is stunned to learn that Girl is actually married to her daughter’s father. The marriage is not particularly happy, and the husband declined to come when girl moved to Ireland. In the studio, the group is teamed with an engineer named Eamon. Eamon is sure the session will be a disaster, but is himself stunned to hear the band’s first song. The session goes on for hours, finally ending near dawn. Guy walks Girl home; during the trip, she tells him that she called her husband, and he is moving to Dublin. Guy is leaving in two days, and asks Girl to visit him before he goes; she agrees but never shows up. Guy goes through with his plans to move to London, but buys a piano and has it delivered to Girl’s apartment before he goes. He then calls the ex-girlfriend and tells her that he is coming to London, which she is happy to hear. Girl’s husband moves to Dublin, and the family is reunited.
MY TAKE: I was not thrilled by this movie when it started. I’m a musician, too, and I get really irritated by a couple of things. Two of these things are instruments that are out of tune and vocalists who sing too hard (pushing too hard with your throat rather than singing naturally). Guy starts off the film with both of these, and the first time Girl plays the piano it’s out of tune as well. I knew that the film was written and directed by a guy that had been in a band, so I was not impressed. What I didn’t know was that Guy and Girl are both played by musicians, and that they actually are an act known as the Swell Season. I never found the storyline anything revelatory, but after the opening scenes, the music became transfixing. It’s incredibly well-written and performed (both of which Swell Season did themselves), and there’s something about watching musicians do what they love. The scene where the group is in the studio for the first time, when Eamon is sure it’s going to be a disaster, is transfixing. I was pissed that nothing happened at the end between Guy and Girl, because that’s what things were obviously leading to: in addition, both stated during the film that their respective significant others didn’t appreciate their music, which proves they’re both dumb and unsupportive. It’s a pretty routine, forgettable storyline but is immensely elevated by the music that accompanies it. My opinon at the end was SO much different than my opinion at the beginning. I even bought the soundtrack on iTunes.
RATING: Watch it for the music.