Simple, sweet-natured movie about a poor Dublin singer-songwriter (Glen Hansard) who has a chance encounter with a Czech piano player (Marketa Irglova) and winds up playing music with her, writing songs with her – and maybe falling a little in love with her.

Shot digitally on a shoestring budget, Once has already become one of the sleeper hits of 2007. Perhaps the ladies in the audience were swooning for the rough but gentle Hansard and his aching love songs: one thing that makes Once stand out is that writer/director Carney – who was in a band with Hansard – allows his characters to sing their songs in their entirety. So in many ways, Once is an old-fashioned musical.

How much you like this film depends, I think, on how much you dig Hansard's music: he's an actual singer/songwriter, and what you hear in Once is his own work. Personally, I didn't hate it, but I didn't find it particularly memorable either. Basic troubadour-in-pain stuff that I've heard a million times from the aspirants who clog the small clubs in Los Angeles.

Hansard does have a certain easygoing charisma, as does the elfin Irglova. I understand the two have played music together for some time now, and while their real-life relationship makes for some good musical chemistry, I couldn't buy any onscreen romance between them. Still, as non-actors, their work is natural and honest, and Carney's quiet direction never goes limp. (The film's short running time may help.)

Once is a nice little movie. I just don't think it's one of the best films of the year or anything like that. The only creepout: Hansard is fully eighteen years older than Irglova.