Even if you don’t really care for musicals, (like me) you’ll find this one irresistible. A unamed girl introduces herself to an unnamed guy on the streets of Dublin as he’s playing for spare change. He does have a ‘real’ job (he works in his dad’s vacuum cleaner repair shop. She has a vacuum cleaner in need of repair, and she’s also a pianist. Since she doesn’t have her own piano (she couldn’t afford one) she plays at a music shop during lunch. One day the guy accompanies her there and they make some beautiful music together.
The musicians in the cast are all professional musicians, not actors. The acting of the two primaries is good enough to make it all believable (they have a natural chemistry), but it’s the music making of course, that pulls you in. The music expresses their growing interest in one another, though it’s complicated, each believing they still need to make a go of it with their old lovers. How that all works out is open-ended, though you have to believe that these two will eventually get together.
The joy of the film is the music, and the act of making music together is shown in all its transcendent glory. The studio scene (where they record their first cd) is beautifully done.
All of the musical numbers flow into the narrative effortlessly – easy enough, since they all are fulfilling their natural roles, that of musicians playing music. There is one exception, that is more like a traditional “musical” scene. This comes when the girl (Markéta Irglová) is walking along the street at night playing her song from the cd that she was encouraged to write by the guy (Glen Hansard). It works as well as the others, adding a nice touch.
The audience award winner at the 2007 Sundance film festival, the picture also was awarded an Oscar for Best Original Song at the 2008 ceremonies. A documentary about the pressures of success and the real-life romance that developed from their film roles has just come out on DVD: The Swell Season. I’m trying to get a hold of it now. It’s at the top of my queue. What’s at the top of my queue and what I get are sometimes separate things, as you may be aware if you are a Netflix subscriber.