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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Once is an endearing indie romance. Although there's a fair amount of swearing -- particularly "f--k" -- hardly anything else would raise a flag for teens and up. In fact, it's one of the few love stories that doesn't require its leads to get naked or fall in bed together. A thief does try to make off with the musician's street earnings, and there's some bitter talk of past breakups, plenty of beer drinking, and flirtation between a married woman and a single man (even though both know she's still married). But the positive messages about love and emotional connection outweigh any iffiness.
What's the story?
Glen Hansard, frontman for beloved Irish indie-rock band The Frames, stars as an unnamed musician who sings on the streets of Dublin in ONCE. During the day, he plays Van Morrison songs, but at night, he sings his own compositions -- sad, affecting tunes -- with a passion that has no relationship to audience size. One day he meets a young woman (Marketa Irglova) who turns out to be an accomplished, impoverished Czech immigrant who plays the piano beautifully but sells flowers and cleans houses to make ends meet. They're soul mates, and theirs is a story of the transformative power of love and music.
Is it any good?
John Carney's musical is one of those gems that so rarely graces the big screen these days: a truly good movie. That Carney, who once was a member of The Frames himself, could fashion such a moving, romantic film without resorting to the ho-hum boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl formula is a testament to his talent as both a writer and a director. Deftly and lightly, he lets emotions build up quietly for maximum impact. The relationship between the two leads develops as if in real life: unhurriedly but with great force.
Once's songs aid the storytelling -- but, unlike most musicals, they pour out naturally, as you'd expect when two accomplished musicians unite. In "Falling Slowly," a haunting melody, the pair sings in harmony: "I don't know you/But I want you/All the more for that." In fact, the movie itself plays like a great song; you could listen to it over and over and rediscover something new each time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what makes Once so different from typical Hollywood romances. How does the main couple connect without having sex? Do other movies rely too much on establishing relationships primarily through getting physical?
How do most movies define "love"? Is that realistic?
Families can also discuss the fact that movies often portray the pursuit of dreams. Do these dreams seem attainable? If not, how do you keep the faith?
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