Vague Visages’ One of These Days review contains minor spoilers. Bastian Günther’s 2020 movie stars Carrie Preston, Joe Cole and Callie Hernandez. Check out the VV home page for more film reviews, along with cast/character summaries, streaming guides and complete soundtrack song listings.
One of These Days combines the black humor of Fargo (1996) with the grit of a post-war neorealism film like Bicycle Thieves (1948). In small town Texas, a twenty-something man doesn’t earn enough money to support his wife and son. Portrayed by Peaky Blinders alum Joe Cole, Kyle enters the annual “Hands On” event, in which locals compete for a new truck by clinging on for as long as they can. The simple premise allows for a rich character study about coping mechanisms and the complexities of the human condition. Is Joe more deserving of the truck than a white military veteran or a Black man who endures casual racism? The camera of director Bastian Günther and cinematographer Michael Kotschi roams through the focal community like an investigative reporter. Characters reveal their true selves through fatigue, anger and frustration. The film’s title could be interpreted as a life mantra for the main players — people who seem trapped within their community — but it could also be viewed as a warning from an unidentified higher being that quietly functions as a supporting character.
One of These Days examines what it’s like to feel alone in a small community. As contestants circle around a shiny truck, a series of pan shots reveal the diversity of Joe’s Texas town. A religious woman keeps a bible close. A young military veteran drifts away into his thoughts while singing “The Star Spangled Banner.” Moments later, a Black man shakes his head. Elsewhere, an angry white contestant drops an “n-bomb” on a different Black individual. Meanwhile, a person on the spectrum zones out while listening to songs, unaware that air-drumming will ultimately disqualify him from the competition. “What’s with him?” says a local, seemingly ill-equipped to have a conversation about autism. Interestingly, actress Carrie Preston receives top-billing as Joan, the proud organizer of “Hands On” who uses the event to distract her thoughts from familial issues and a sexual partner with roaming eyes. The motion and editing — the boldness of it all — creates a feeling of authenticity. Joe, it seems, will achieve his goal through sheer will power, much like the crafty protagonists of the aforementioned Fargo and Bicycle Thieves. As we all know, though, sitting alone with one’s thoughts, during a time of increased stress, can be dangerous.
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On the surface, One of These Days is about small town sensationalism and power dynamics. Younger male contestants like Derek (Evan Henderson) and Kevin (Jesse C. Boyd) seemingly compete to reinforce their reputations within the community. These guys stare down Joe, hoping to use his financial situation against him. As for Joan, she enjoys being the belle of the ball, even if the event itself is painfully boring and potentially dangerous for contestants. Incidentally, little character details emerge through the various pan shots, usually when the main players observe their surroundings. Each person has their “thing” — a big part of small-town livin’ — which creates a tremendous amount of second-act tension as Günther complicates the narrative by introducing a twin and a violent dream sequence, all the while keeping religion in the backdrop via the bible-thumping Ruthie (Lynne Ashe), who quite literally vomits on her beloved book. If a higher being is entirely absent, then what changes in the community? Not much, Günther suggests.
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Fortunately, Günther doesn’t provide easy answers in One Of These Days, but rather toys with the audience by expanding the storyline beyond the main setting, which in turn underlines the concept that Joe isn’t alone at all, and that he might simply be a competitive and vindictive person who doesn’t like to lose. Is Joe any different than the morally-righteous Ruthie? To quote the manipulative character Kevin, One of These Days is a “really good show.” Günther operates like a documentarian through a cinéma vérité approach, only to remind viewers that One of These Days is in fact his show. And the filmmaker does indeed come across as an auteur with something important to say. The challenge, however, is knowing when to close the curtain.
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Günther swings and misses with One of These Days’ final 20 minutes. He seems intent on stamping his mark on the film, but some of the realistic surrealism won’t necessarily connect with viewers who walk and talk like the main characters. So, it almost feels like Günther looks down upon One of These Days’ protagonists, almost like he is HIM. Then again, is that not the mark of an auteur?
One of These Days feels a bit too long at 119 minutes. A double full-frontal doesn’t add much to the film, nor does the clunky twin twist, at least beyond emphasizing what already’s been established about Kyle’s fatigue. In addition, Hernandez (an A-list star-in-the-making) feels underutilized, although my recency bias could affect my judgment after seeing Jethica last month.
I must admit that I loved Günther’s show. Or rather, I love the show, as cinema exists… it’s present, not gone. One of These Days’ focal community will always be available to explore. And the final 20 minutes will probably bring me back for more Texas crawfish. Ok, Günther. You got me. Bold storytelling is better than milquetoast moviemaking.
One of These Days released digitally and theatrically on April 14, 2023 via Uncork’d Entertainment.
Q.V. Hough (@QVHough) is Vague Visages’ founding editor.
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Categories: 2020s, 2023 Film Reviews, Drama, Featured
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