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Sundance 2021 - One for the Road Review

Produced by Wong Kar-wai and directed by Baz Poonpiriya, One For The Road is a buddy road trip film with two great leads, a sleek style, and a surprising number of emotional punches. Wasting no time, Poonpiriya’s film throws us right into the company of Aood (Ice Natara) and Boss (Thanapob Leeratanakajorn), their relationship serving as the crux of the film. Boss is a womanizing bar owner in New York who is called back to Thailand upon learning of his friend Aood’s cancer diagnosis. Right off the jump, the audience can see that there’s more to this friendship than we know, and due to the fast pacing and great use of flashbacks, we become quickly acquainted with these two friends. As the film progresses, we begin to learn more about their relationship, but as we do, we definitely run into a few obstacles. Don’t get me wrong, there are some extremely strong moments and some very memorable scenes, but the third act feels like a completely different movie; one that is oversaturated with melodrama and far less likeable characters. Despite this, One For The Road manages to stick the landing and deliver a beautiful ending that left a very sweet taste in my mouth.

As a buddy comedy, this movie thrives for most of its runtime. With hijinx and sarcastic jabs, Aood and Boss are on a mission; a mission of closure. As Aood contemplates and processes his diagnosis, he decides that there’s a select list of people he wants to see one last time in person. Reluctantly, Boss agrees to accompany him on this trip and takes us, the audience, on a trip down memory lane. This trip is often bittersweet, revealing details of these men’s family and love lives, and this is where the movie is at its strongest. One for the Road does such a good job sprinkling bits of exposition throughout, but when the past becomes this film’s focus, it almost completely halts the film's momentum, by bringing it to a complete standstill. This set up for a big reveal doesn’t hit nearly as hard as it should because of how drawn out it is.

Despite the stumble, One for the Road closes out strong, with a memorable and fitting ending that will leave viewers feeling like they too just completed this cathartic road trip.

Aside from the plot structure, this film is heightened by two impressive performances from its leads, as well as a beautiful aesthetic. Kar-wai’s influence is clear to see and the use of light and color is immediately recognizable. Beyond that, Poonpiriya adds his own signature flare, using quick pans and rotating camera angles. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re a fan of this type of filmmaking, you’ll be impressed with Poonpiriya’s style.

While it has some slow moments, One for the Road is a truly life affirming film. I defy anyone to watch this movie and tell me they don’t immediately want to go on a road trip or open a bar with their best friend. Turns out that great tragedy can make you take stock of life and cherish the people closest to you. Lucky for us, we don’t have to experience that directly to understand that life is about appreciating the destination and the journey equally. One for the Road will not be for everyone, but those who enjoy it will likely heed its message for years to come!

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