The phrase One of These Days is something we’ve all said, you appreciate its value, you comprehend its dream-like promise of something better. Writer and Director Bastian Günther’s One of These Days is inspired by the documentary Hands on a Hardbody, where contestants compete against each other to keep their hands on a truck, for as long as possible, to be the last one standing and consequentially win it.
In Günther’s film, that key element is the same but this time it takes up the mantel of trying to improve the life of Joe Cole’s Kyle, an everyday hardworking fella who’s deep within the broken dream of American society and looking for a victory to help his young family. The game here is called Hands On and it’s not just a car, it’s a lifeline, it’s the keys to a distant better place, it is an opportunity that not everyone has, depending on where you come from.
One of These Days becomes more of a think-piece than I anticipated, there’s social commentary and with it, of course, a suggestion of inequality and what that might drive people to, no pun intended. Once the competition starts, we’re introduced to a wealth of characters, from the old to young, from the hyper-confident to the unexpected and early on, it’s clear this ‘Hands On’ competition will require physical and mental stamina, as it’s suggested this could go on for a possible 100 hours.
As Kyle, Joe Cole is believable and honest, his character goes through a glut of emotions as the hours drag on, and his psychological soul gets dragged down with sleep deprivation and – like many involved – a question over why they’re doing this at all. But One of These Days isn’t just about Cole’s Kyle, a huge part of the film is Carrie Preston’s excellent performance as local PR lady, Joan. She’s running the car competition for a local dealership and we’re given an insight into her trying to find her way in the world and relationships. Preston offers a natural performance with a wealth of depth and, for me, is the stellar stand-out.
Michael Kotschi’s cinematography is exquisitely earthy, often like you’re sat in a photo, lingering on moments when it matters and reflecting the mindset of some characters, including giving the car a god-like look as it stays clean and precise, untouched even when touched. Like a deity on the edge of the Texan desert. There’s an early shot of Joan’s mother in a car-wash, and a latter one of Kyle sat pondering his life in that moment, and both are wonderfully captured.
One of These Days is a small-town story with a broad point of view, plus a huge shift in narrative in the latter stages. While at first, I thought it’d been unusually edited, it also questions your own perspective of what you’ve seen– whereas are we the characters also suffering from some sense of delirium? And while I can see what Günther might be suggesting, the balance might be a bit too much of a change for some viewers, as it throws us away from everything that’s come before. Is life chaos? Are decisions we make what we think we make? And so forth.
Despite many positives, One of These Days suffers from lulls in viewer connection. Early in the film, before we start hitting the hours of psychological and physical breakdowns, there’s a few too many lingering shots of the people with their hands on the car, which may echo the hours of boredom but there’s not a lot of ‘build’ through in a narrative sense, and so it’s quite easy to lose interest. That element works in a documentary but here it drags, and you feel that overall, despite some genuinely great performances, this story would have slotted in perfectly within a 90-minute runtime to really take us on a more intense journey.