One of These Days
A dramatic retelling of S R Bindler’s 1997 documentary Hands On A Hardbody, this solid, absorbing film fictionalises a publicity stunt at a car dealership in a small Texan town. Whichever participant keeps their hands on a gaudy blue truck the longest wins it. This prize functions as a test of stamina and as an indirect form of revelation. You learn a lot about someone who is willing to stand days on end for the promise of a fresh diesel engine.
Cut to the denouement, an extended temporal shift that explains the climactic incident. It shows softly-spoken Kyle (Joe Cole) with his young family in a state of outward contentment. This gentle depiction of harmony is rewired as a premonition of tragedy, an uneasy domestic bliss that hides a figured embodiment of fragile masculinity, of simmering madness wrought from desperate poverty. There’s no single trigger, rather an accumulation of impotencies: a broken-down car that suggests his inability to provide. For Kyle, the kettle is on the verge of boiling.
Director Bastian Günther favours uncompromising close ups, observant of small details and interactions, which render the competitive tension among the disparate band of vehicle fondlers. Presented mostly without supercilious sneering, the varied set includes the devout Bible reader, the insular earphone wearer, the vacant-eyed army veteran, and the dubious long distance runner. These are mostly absurd, melancholy character studies, brought into relief by the bizarre extremity of their mutual circumstance. The descent into hysteria and delusion is a communal one. As each drops off, the well-intentioned Joan (Carrie Preston), a cheery woman in denial about the contest’s exploitative thrust, consoles them. It’s cold comfort.
Pace slackens because of the camera’s focus on such a small proximity. The viewer contemplates those who have bailed out and returned to everyday life. Given the cinematographic claustrophobia, it’s easy to forget a world exists outside of the truck. A silly twist enlivens the second half before quiet Kyle, with an apparent history of legal trouble, begins to bubble over. Google Street View-style interludes emphasize the Southern locale as an exceptional social space of relative wealth and deprivation. Some off-key, imagined sequences interrogate Kyle’s thwarted mobility and accompanying self-hatred. These vary the otherwise consistent tonal shift from comic to tragic that depicts a final, inexplicable heartbreak: man’s senseless self-immolation, which articulates his reckoning with failure and the irredeemable shame of giving up.
One of These Days does not have a UK release date yet.
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