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  One of These Days Truck On, Truck Off
Year: 2020
Director: Bastian Gunther
Stars: Carrie Preston, Joe Cole, Callie Hernandez, Devyn A. Tyler, Cullen Moss, Lucy Faust, Jesse C. Boyd, Lara Grice, Lynne Ashe, Jared Bankens, Clyde Risley Jones, Sam Malone, Billy Slaughter, Richie Montgomery, Alexander Biglane, Evan Henderson
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: There's a contest in this small Texan town that has been running for the past ten years. The idea is simple: a raffle is held to select the participants, then they assemble around a brand new, state of the art pick-up truck and place one or both hands on it. They are not allowed to lean on it, and if they stop placing their hands on it while not during one of the hourly breaks, they will be disqualified. The last person standing with their palms on the truck is the winner, and Kyle Parson (Joe Cole) has just been informed he has been given a chance to win, something he really needs right now to support his fast-food job and his wife Maria (Callie Hernandez) and baby son. But competition will be fierce...

This is a real competition, and indeed had already been the subject of a documentary as well as the source of television coverage - in Britain, Channel 5 broadcast it with local contestants to dwindling viewing figures despite the professionalism of presenter Dale Winton, but even he struggled to make it interesting. This, you might think, did not bode well for a two-hour movie about this subject, but German writer and director Bastian Gunther conjured up a twist or two for his fictionalised version that were genuinely surprising if you were not paying attention. Although British actor Cole appeared to be the lead character, for instance, the actual protagonist was Joan (Carrie Preston) who was the car dealership's public relations representative.

We get to learn quite a bit about Joan, far more than we really needed to when you would think the truck business was more than adequate as a plotline. She lives with her increasingly senile mother, her daughter has flown the nest to study at college, her boyfriend who has not been taking her seriously as a relationship is now settling down with someone else, and most of all she is desperately lonely. It's as if everyone is in some kind of crisis in America of a personal uniqueness, that nevertheless amounts to a shared experience of mass trauma they cannot bring themselves to admit to with others, and to coin a phrase, something's gotta give. Joan's pathetic claim that the truck contest is a "blast" is not one shared by the film, which regards it as a depressing example of how bad times can bring out the worst in too many people.

There are a mix of personalities around the vehicle for the big day (and night), some modest and Godfearing, others bullish and aggressive, some just plain nuts, but they're all determined and convinced they will be driving away the truck (after some sleep, one hopes). Gunther adopted a steadily heightened, woozy, at times hallucinatory style that only intensifies as the plot progresses, so much so that the audience may share the character's confusion about what is actually happening. The cast were up to the challenge, separating vaguely into heroes and villains, but be warned you may like a lie down in a darkened room after watching if you feel the depiction of bone deep fatigue getting to you. Cole was fine, but took a curious extended flashback coda to have us understand his inner life somewhat better than the preceding hour forty-five, and even then, there was a note of surrealism to confound us a little more. Preston, no matter that it felt we knew more about her than necessary, was the real heart of the movie, but the narrative was a shade broken backed as a result. Better than you would expect, for all that.

[ONE OF THESE DAYS will release on EST platforms including Sky and Amazon from 2nd May. The DVD/ TVOD release date set for 16th May 2022.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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