Once (Blu-ray Review)

once whysoblu cover-001Once is an Academy Award-winning indie film that blends drama and music in a very charming way. I remember being initially against this film back in 2007, simply because the trailer made it all seem so obvious in terms of the type of indie movie it was. I was very happy to eat crow after finally seeing it, as everything about this film made me smile. The music is fantastic, the performances feel authentic, and the small scale nature of this production have it work as a nice personal story about two people that form a brief bond. Now Once is on Blu-ray, where people can maybe rediscover this acclaimed film from 2007.


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Set in Dublin, Ireland, the film follows a male street musician (Glen Hansard) and a lovely female keyboardist (Marketa Irglova), who form a bond over music and through seeing a lot of similarities in one another. We never learn their names, but we do see them stick together for a week and decide to do what they can to record a collection of songs and possibly turn it into something greater. It is a soulful collaboration, very fitting of the romantic sparks between them.

There is little else to describe about the plotting of this film, short of listing out details of the lives of these people. Once is a quick-paced 86 minutes (with credits), but it uses all of that time quite wisely and even goes against the conventions some would expect in a story like this. For example, while this is a romance, for lack of a better way to label the film, it begins with Hansard’s character performing on the street and then chasing after a man who stole his guitar bag full of collected change. Once catching up with him, the two reveal that they know each other well enough and reach an understanding. There are other scenes like this that reflect how this story turns out for the two lead characters, but I don’t want to go too far into that territory.

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A lot of joy I get from Once is a result of how certain scenes pull a reversal by way of reaction shots and some minor tricks to think one way about a character, only realize what they really think. While Once certainly exists in a grounded reality, it reminds me a lot of Amelie in the way you see a lot of friendly characters or at least individuals who become friendlier through the discovery of the music we hear in this film. That level of sweetness does not make Once feel like a fairy tale necessarily, but there is enough optimism in it that could, in a lesser film, harm the overall intent of the story being told, but fits really well within the bounds of what writer/director John Carney has constructed.

Then you have the music, which is fantastic. All the songs featured in this film were performed by Hansard and Irglova, with the track, “Falling Slowly,” eventually beating three songs all from Enchanted for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. It is easy to see why, as it is such a great representation of the charm found in a movie like this, with professional musicians providing solid performances to go along with this story. Helping matters further is the way all of the songs seem to naturally fit into this film, making it a musical of sorts, but not one with songs coming at random.

Once is a wonderful film that finds a great way to turn its romantic drama plotting into effective indie filmmaking. The film features a great soundtrack and two characters that are hard to forget. It was a movie I was very happy to revisit.


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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: For a low budget film like this, with a lot of natural lighting digital camcorder use, Once is a film that certainly looks like an indie, but it has still come over to Blu-ray in quite a strong way. The image is always clear and the use of close-ups and indoor scenery do a lot to help bring out the quality of the details seen.

Depth: The depth in this picture is reflected well thanks to the use of long lenses to capture the actors from a distance in crowded scenes in the street.

Black Levels: With the image coming off as a bit soft overall, the black levels are fairly strong throughout, which, again, works for what it is, given the lo-fi nature of this film.

Color Reproduction: Colors look fine, thought the film’s grounded nature does not use them as a way to really blow anyone away.

Flesh Tones: The use of many close-ups is great for seeing the details and textures in the characters we get good looks at.

Noise/Artifacts: Nothing related to the transfer of this Blu-ray that I could spot.



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Audio Format(s) English Surround DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0, Spanish Surround Dolby Digital 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: Given the low budget nature of this film once again, Once does not have a spectacular audio track to really let you hear these songs in full glory, but that does not mean the experience is not solid, as the combination of the music and the Dublin environment is quite solid throughout.

Low Frequency Extension: The musical nature of this film provides this area with some added value.

Surround Sound Presentation: The layering of the instrumentals, lyrics, and basic dialogue and sound effects that come in and out of the musical sequences provide enough of an example to put a surround system on display and come across very well.

Dialogue Reproduction: Never had any issue hearing what these characters had to say one another.



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The extras have been merely ported over from the previous DVD release, but they are worthwhile, especially given the two separate commentaries.

Features Include:

  • Commentary with Writer/Director John Carney and Actor/Musicians Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova – This is a commentary focused more on the filming process and it is a nice listen.
  • Musical Commentary with Carney, Hansard, and Irglova – The same crew returns for a second commentary focused on the music of the film.
  • Making a Modern-Day Musical Featurette – A look behind the scenes at the making of this film.
  • More Guy, More Girl Featurette – A look at the two stars of this film.
  • Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy Webisode (Animated) – A neat little bonus animation of one of the songs in the film.


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I was happy to have a chance to revisit this little film that won me over quite easily, after finally seeing it years ago. The film still holds up quite well in my eyes and it has a great soundtrack that I still listen to occasionally. The Blu-ray does a fine job of presenting this low budget film about as strongly as it can and while no new features were added, the ones present still support the film well enough. Check out Once if you have the chance.

Order Your Copy Here:

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Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS4.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com


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