Sundance 2021: One For The Road

Aood (Ice Natara) finds out he’s dying of cancer and knows just who to call: everyone! Working his way through his contact list, he calls every friend and acquaintance to thank them for whatever it was that they’d shared. At the end he’s got only a select few remaining, close friends that he must say goodbye to in person.

His first call is to estranged best friend Boss (Tor Thanapob), a club owner in New York City, who agrees to return to Thailand to help his friend with a last request. Aood has a couple of ex-girlfriends to return mementos of their past relationship to, though closure is what he’s really after, on their behalf more than his own, being quite familiar with the dull ache of being the one left behind. One girlfriend is happier to see him than another, but either way, names are getting ticked off the list, dwindling contacts deleted from his phone. You might start to wonder, as I did, with half the movie still to go, is Aood’s cancer linger just a little too long? Alas, there is one relationship left to repair: predictably, that of Aood and Boss, and an ex they more or less have in common.

At this point the film jogs backwards, illuminating their shared history, but derailing the narrative of the first film quite drastically. Surprisingly, it eventually finds its way back, but I’m not convinced this was the best path to telling the story. More than just a story, though, One For The Road is a toast to male friendship and complicated bonds between young men.

Although the film didn’t blow me away, it did have some truly stand-out moments, and even if a bit derivative, it’s clear director Baz Poonpiriya has a voice and style he’s just beginning to own. If One For the Road is manipulative, at least it’s skillfully manipulative, and delivered via some fine performances. Poonpiriya shows promise, with some room for improvement.

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