Winner of the Audience Award at this year’s Sundance, John Carney’s poignant, modern-day love story set on the streets of Dublin offers a brooding alternative to the traditional conventions of the musical. Starring musicians, Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, as the unnamed leads, the film centres on their unlikely relationship when the ‘Girl’ (Irglová), an immigrant pianist, helps the ‘Guy’ (Hansard), a street busker, to make a demo to take to London. Attracted by their mutual adoration for music, a hesitant but empathetic relationship swiftly develops as they come to terms with past loves through the delicately veiled metaphors of lyrics that are subtly woven into the narrative. The performances unfold in music shops, buses, recording studios and late-night apartments, where Carney settles in for long, intimate shots of the pair, whose songs articulate more about the characters than any monologue could. Too shrewd for idealistic closure, the film’s stiff dose of postmodern angst thwarts numerous, romanticised perceptions of love, sex and conjugal possibility; besides, the Guy’s too old for the Girl and still infatuated with his ex, and she has a child and an estranged husband back in the Czech Republic.
Shot on DV, Carney’s highly charged, urban mise-en-scène with its blinking street lamps, vacant shops and dishevelled bed-sits provides ample poetic backdrop for the film’s lengthy tracking shots, epitomised in a sequence where the Girl walks to the corner shop in pyjamas and slippers while listening to one of the Guy’s songs on her personal stereo. With outstanding performances from Hansard and new-comer Irglová, Carney has created a sublime, visual album of unassuming and self-assured eloquence.