My favorite movie of the year, Once is one of those films that seems to polarize people into love it or hate it mode. A small, simple story about a busker, Glen Hansard, and the immigrant stranger, Markéta Irglová, who happens upon him, Once manages to catch lightning in a bottle.

One of those true-life happy accidents, the picture was originally conceived by writer-director John Carney with a bigger budget and a bigger star (rumored to be Cillian Murphy). Hansard, a musician and sometime actor (the Frames, The Commitments) meant to do the music but ended up with the lead.

Mostly untried actors, Hansard and Irglová manage, in the most natural way, to convey the purity and wonder of falling in love with seemingly no effort. Their chemistry and delight in each other infuse their duets with a longing that lingers on, way after the film ends.

The fantastic soundtrack captures the tone of the lovers perfectly with one poignant song after another. Like the movie, the songs, written and performed by the two leads, are simple and small, but in the most perfect way that makes you forget you ever liked things more complicated. The experience is like boiling something down to its essence and finding it completely satiating.

Once recreates the experience of falling in love so truly that you believe it to be true – the two people onscreen must really be feeling these things. Funny enough, the two actors did apparently fall in love during the making of the movie, and their regard fills the screen in the way other on-set romances have, like The Notebook and To Have and Have Not, making reality and fiction appear closer than ever.

Grade: A+

Once is currently available.