This tour doc—shot in moody, close-up-heavy black-and-white—traces a few years on the road with Glen Hansard and Markéta Irglová, real-life musical collaborators in the band The Swell Season who starred in the 2007 Irish indie musical hit Once, won an Oscar for writing its music, fell in love while making the film, and broke up while touring America in its aftermath. Once's unlikely success and the ensuing May/December relationship between Irglová (17 when the film was shot) and world-weary, 40-ish Hansard created the marketable myth of a creative partnership leading to true love, which made an apparently never-ending American tour possible. The Swell Season documents that myth's undoing—a dissolution that almost necessarily remains hidden from the fans drawn to the band's shows by Hansard and Irglová's rags-to-riches-plus-romance fairy tale. (An autograph hound gushes, "I hope you guys make it to the end of time!") Exceedingly nonlinear, the film is a jumble of fragments—performances, vérité footage backstage, a few contextualizing interviews—each offering real-world evidence to puncture a fan's fantasy version of Hansard and Irglová as lovers meant to beat the odds. For those fans, The Swell Season might seem like a bittersweet revelation, proof that these stars are, in the sheer banality of their everyday angst, just like us. (Although their ability to continue a professional relationship after the romance ends seems superhuman.) But to viewers without a pre-existing emotional relationship to the couple and their saga, that everyday angst is just banal.
All is swell before Hansard and Irglova split.
Opens at SIFF Film Center, Fri., Nov. 11. Not rated. 90 minutes.