Once was filmed on somewhat of a shoestring budget and it shows. The whole thing has the production values of a student film project, right down to the cinematography and editing; it just feels sloppy and amateur all too often. One thing that also jumped out immediately is that it comes across as little more than an advert for Glen Hansard’s, and to a lesser extent Markéta Irglová’s, music. There are several moments in the film where Hansard proceeds to sing one of his songs in full and the whole thing just feels like one of his music videos with some narrative tacked on. The music is generally pretty good, however, so fans of his will likely find enough to enjoy.
The films is billed as a sort of indie musical but it doesn’t come across as such. Musicals use the music to help tell the story whereas this seems to simply intersperse the story with musical interludes. Once does improve as it goes along and the non-formulaic ending is welcome. There are some nice sentiments to be taken away from the film and the performances are generally fine, but there’s not enough here to convince it’s a sum greater than any of its parts. The high acclaim is, quite frankly, bemusing.