I’ve been thinking so much about the musical nature of John Carney‘s Once (Fox Searchlight, 5.18) since seeing it at the Sundance Film Festival last January that it didn’t hit me until this morning that it’s a 21st Century Brief Encounter. No exaggeration or reaching — it really is that at its emotional core.

Hansard, Irglova in Once (l.); Johnson, Howard in Brief Encounter (r.)

The essence of David Lean‘s 1946 classic is the notion of love found and love lost — a love between two people (Trevor Howard, Celia Johnson) that’s clearly in their eyes and hearts but not quite in the cards, largely due to an inability or unwillingness to break free from another lingering relationship (i.e., Johnson’s marriage). The relationship between Once‘s Glen Hansard and Marketa Itrglova is similarly charged and similarly constrained. And — I love this — both films run exactly 85 minutes.

I did a phone interview with Carney, Hansard and Irglova this morning. They were in Boston last night, they’re doing press chats today in Manhattan, and they’re about to embark on a cross-country promotional tour that will take them to I’ve-forgotten- how-many-cities, but the trip will span about 18 days, give or take. They’ll hit Los Angeles on 5.15 or 5.16.

The interesting thing is that due to Carney’s fear of flying they’ll be driving the whole way in a van (i.e., paid for by Fox Searchlight) that will have a Once banner on the side. At each screening they’ll be doing a q & a and performing a couple of songs “and maybe going out for a drink with whomever wants to come,” says Carney. I asked John to please send me a photo of the vehicle once they’re on the road, and he said sure.