A modern-day musical about a busker and an immigrant and their eventful week in Dublin, as they write, rehearse and record songs that tell their love story.
An unnamed guy is a Dublin guitarist/singer/songwriter who makes a living by fixing vacuum cleaners in his Dad's Hoover repair shop by day, and singing and playing for money on the Dublin streets by night. An unnamed girl is a Czech who plays piano when she gets a chance, and does odd jobs by day and takes care of her Mom and her daughter by night. Guy meets girl and they get to know each other as the girl helps the guy put together a demo disc that he can take to London in hope of landing a music contract. During the same several day period, the guy and the girl work through their past loves, and reveal their budding love for one another, through their songs.
A guy and a girl meet on the streets of Dublin while she, a Czech immigrant flower seller, listens to him perform as a guitarist/vocalist street musician. Although it is something totally different which makes them decide to meet again - specifically she learning that he also repairs vacuum cleaners as part of his father's business, she needing her vacuum cleaner fixed - it is their musical interests which bond them together, she a classically trained pianist and vocalist. After hearing her play and sing and having an impromptu jam session working on one of his compositions, they decide to collaborate on some song writing, and in recording some of his/their songs if they can raise the necessary funds for the recording studio time. Through their time together, their shared goals leads to an emotional connection, which is complicated by things happening in their personal lives, those personal issues which are reflected in their songs.
A man busks in a square in Dublin. By day he helps his father in a vacuum cleaner repair store and then spends his free time singing songs and playing guitar for tips. Most of the songs are his own compositions. Then he meets a young Czech woman who plays piano and writes her own songs. Musically, the are a perfect match. Romantically, there are impediments...
- An unnamed, thirty-something Dublin busker (listed in the credits as "Guy", played by Glen Hansard) sings and plays guitar on Grafton Street, a Dublin shopping district. He struggles with the trials of performing on the street, including chasing after a heroin addict (Darren Healy) who attempts to steal his earnings. Lured by his music, an unnamed young Czech immigrant flower seller (listed in the credits as "Girl", played by Markéta Irglová) approaches him and, despite his annoyance, persists in questioning him about his songs. Delighted to learn that he also repairs vacuum cleaners in his father's shop, she insists that he fix her broken cleaner.
The next day she brings her Hoover by and parlays it into lunch together, whereupon she piques his interest by telling him that she is a musician, too. He asks to hear her play, so they visit a music store where she regularly plays piano. After teaching her one of his songs ("Falling Slowly"), which she quickly learns to play, they sing and play the song together, kindling a musical and potentially romantic connection. He invites her and her ailing vacuum back to his father's shop, and on the bus home musically answers her question as to what his songs are about: a long-time girlfriend who cheated on him, then left ("Broken-Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy").
At the shop, he repairs her vacuum and she meets his father (Bill Hodnett), who seems indifferent to his son's musical talent. The Guy takes the Girl up to his room, but when he asks her to stay the night, she is offended and leaves. The next day, he apologizes and they quickly patch things up, as over the course of a week they excitedly write, rehearse, and record songs, and get to know each other. Songs continue to be performed in a real-world, diegetic fashion, often in their entirety, as when the Girl rehearses her lyrics for one of the Guy's songs (which she titles "If You Want Me"), singing to herself while walking down the street, or when at a party, people perform impromptu (including "Gold", performed by a trio featuring guitarist Hansard singing harmony).
Their flirtation continues, but at the same time, he is thinking about and writing about ("Lies") his ex-girlfriend (Marcella Plunkett), who moved to London. The Girl encourages him to move there, win his girlfriend back, and pursue his musical career. Invited home to dinner by the Girl, the Guy discovers that she has a toddler (Kate Haugh) and lives with her mother (Danuse Ktrestova). He soon decides that it is time to move to London, but he wants to make a high-quality demo of his songs to take with him and asks the Girl to record it with him. She takes the lead as they secure a loan -- from a bank where the loan officer (Sean Miller) is a musical hobbyist -- and reserve time at a professional studio.
On a romantic motorbike jaunt aboard his father's 1966 6T Triumph Thunderbird, she reveals, much to his consternation, that she is married, though her estranged husband is back in the Czech Republic. When Guy asks if she still loves her husband, she answers in Czech, "Miluju tebe", but coyly declines to translate. Although the translation is not included in the movie, in Czech language it means "It is you I love."
After recruiting a trio of musicians (Gerard Hendrick, Alaistair Foley, Hugh Walsh), they rehearse, then go into the studio to record. Their lack of experience shows, but they quickly impress the jaded studio engineer Eamon (Geoff Minogue) once they begin recording their first song ("When Your Mind's Made Up"). On a break in the wee hours of the morning, the Girl finds a piano in an empty studio and finally plays the Guy one of her own compositions ("The Hill"), which tells of romantic frustration. She breaks down before finishing the song and he responds by asking her to come with him to London, but is not prepared for the reality of her mother coming along to help with the baby.
Still, he is smitten. After the all-night session wraps up successfully, they walk home. Before they part ways, the Girl reveals that she spoke to her husband and he is coming to live with her in Dublin. The Guy asks her to spend his last night in Dublin with him; she says that it would only result in "hanky-panky", which is a "bad idea", but after the Guy's pestering, she ultimately agrees to come over. In the end, she stands him up and he cannot find her to say goodbye before his flight. He plays the demo for his father, who, moved and impressed, gives him money to help him get settled in London. Before leaving for the airport, the Guy buys the Girl a piano (a Petrof) and makes arrangements for its delivery, then calls his ex-girlfriend, who is pleased about his imminent arrival. The Girl's husband (Senan Haugh) moves to Dublin and they reunite.