The films that are chosen to open a festival can really set the tone for the rest of it. Most of us go in on a high and hope to leave our first experience feeling good and hopeful about the rest of the lineup. One For The Road was my opener and even an hour after the credits finished rolling, I’m still completely floored and in awe of what I just watched. The funny thing about this was that I went into this film thinking it was only an hour and a half long. I remember feeling like I had hit that mark but it just kept going and going until eventually, two hours and twenty minutes later, it ended. Boy was I ever grateful for that extra hour because I did not want it to end.
Road trip buddy films have become quite formulaic at this point. We usually get the typical bro comedy with a ridiculous fight near its climax and a happy ending where the bromance is back on track and thriving more than before. While watching this, I couldn’t even really pinpoint what it reminded me of because it walked on its own unique legs and followed its own path. In it we follow Boss, a club owner in New York, who receives a random call from his old best friend Aood in Thailand stating that he’s in the final stages of Leukemia. Without any questions asked, Boss returns to Thailand upon being asked a favour from his old friend who believes is in his last days of mortality. Together, the two embark on a road trip down memory lane as Aood says his goodbyes to those who have meant something to him in the past.
There’s a lot to unpack here. It wasn’t necessarily even the cancer story that put me in my feels; instead this is more so about one man’s redemption and how goodbyes mean something different to everyone. Usually when we witness redemption, it’s starting at the bottom and watching our characters build themselves up to a better self. This time around we learn more about them as the film goes on, the good and the bad. But because they already seemed sweet and innocent to start out, the bad hits even harder as we delve deeper into their past and who these two really are. This was such a smart move by its writers and director; every little flashback we were given that inched closer to us understanding these two men hit like bullets. It messed with our perceptions which was so frustrating when you go from adoring them to wanting to scream at them. The way this was constructed in a manor to screw with us made it all the more interesting, and kept me wanting more.
When it comes to the structure of the film, it was interesting to say the least. Taking place in the present but scattered with flashbacks in its first half, and a completely different set up for the last of it. This took us on an unpredictable ride due to the fact that I didn’t know what kind of memory was going to be unlocked next and where that was going to steer their journey. I commend director Nattawut Poonpiriya (Countdown, Bad Genius) on taking a storytelling risk and turning what is really a simple idea into a rollercoaster of emotions and events that are so much bigger than what they seem to be. Although its second half may take some viewers out of it for a moment due to a prolonged flashback, I for one enjoyed it once I saw where it was heading and how nicely it was wrapped up in the end.
As for the acting, I could really sit here and go on about every single person in this cast and how they delivered, but I want to talk about the two leads, Tor Thanapob (Boss) and Ice Natara (Aood). If you’re going to pull off a film about friendship, especially one that’s supposed to have lasted ten years, you need chemistry and a presence that radiates from the duo when they’re together on screen. These two had all that and more. You get so attached to them that you want to see all of their years in New York together and even the smallest meaningless moments during their trip. They’re not always the best people who are easy to root for but that’s what makes them so real. All of us are the protagonists as well as the villains at some point in our stories and to watch these two be both throughout the two hour duration was a rollercoaster that I can’t wait to witness again.
One For The Road is a beautifully shot film with a fun soundtrack that drives the story nicely; I can’t help but feel like this will stay with me for quite some time. It made me question all of the unresolved relationships I have with people in my life and if I were to run out of time, what would I say or want from the closure? What does that closure even look like? Don’t be afraid of its runtime because this is a beautiful story that many will appreciate long before the credits are even rolling. For my first film of the festival, I’d say the expectations for the road ahead are definitely high.