One of These Days REVIEW | Berlinale 2020

One of These Days fails to really take advantage of its central conceit.

One of These Days
One of These Days | © Michael Kotschi/Flare Film

There are 20 contestants, chosen by raffle, competing to win a truck. In order to succeed, they have to keep one hand on it at all times. No sleeping, no leaning, no sitting. There’s a five minute break every hour with a fifteen minute break every six hours. The winner takes their hand off the truck last.

What kind of person is willing to stand for hours on end, to forsake sleep, proper food and their loved ones just to win a truck? While it sounds like the plot of a Will Ferrell movie, One of These Days uses what could’ve been a light-hearted premise to investigate the true meaning of the American dream.

Carrie Preston plays Joan, the organiser of the event in a small town in Texas, which is a PR ploy to drum up publicity for her automobile company. She’s an upbeat, preppy person, not beyond infiltrating Bible readings to hand out flyers. Suffering from both her daughter flying the nest (Tallahassee, Florida) and her mother slowly withering away to the forces of dementia, she needs this event to be a success.

On the other hand there are the contestants, led by Kyle. Played by British actor Joe Cole, he works as a burger flipper at a fast food joint owned by his Latino girlfriend’s cousin. There is an element of white resentment here, with Kyle believing that the world owes him something, more specifically a nice, shiny truck so he doesn’t have to borrow vehicles from friends or family anymore. Ultimately, he needs this vehicle because everyone in rural USA needs a vehicle. With public transport almost non-existent, there is simply no other way to get around. When Kyle does decide to walk, a police car stops him and asks him if he’s up to any trouble.

Kyle finds his nemesis in a professional competitor with a hilarious edge in the competition, revealing that true success in America has and always will be based upon grift rather than true determination. They are complemented by a variety of oddballs with different techniques for winning: a man who refuses to take breaks, a woman constantly reading from the Bible and a guy who listens to music to help pass away the time.

In a superficial way, it resembles classic gameshow-style films, like Exam and Circle, where you can never quite know who will emerge on top. But One of These Days is not interested in their very specific pleasures — which thrive on their egalitarian nature — instead focusing primarily on Joan and Kyle, and their relation to the event. Nonetheless, while Joan’s tale is a sweet and complex exploration of being alone in middle age, Kyle’s is far more schematic, didactic and uninteresting.

With a lengthy epilogue that reveals little that we don’t already know, Kyle’s tale pulls away from the high concept of the event itself. This could’ve been a fascinating exploration of class and race in America through the different characters who come to the event, yet Kyle is the only contestant we learn anything about. This feels like a missed opportunity. After all, America, and especially Texas, is not just comprised of guys like Kyle.

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One of These Days
Despite its catchy premise, One of These Days fails to really take advantage of its central conceit.