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One for the Road

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
One for the road (นัฐวัฒิ พูนพิริยะ, 2021)
One for the road (นัฐวัฒิ พูนพิริยะ, 2021)

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Baz’s third feature film is a wonderful cinematic experience, but sadly stumbles over questionable big dick energy, which obscures whatever messages it conveys.

How far would you go to ask someone for forgiveness? For Aood, a 30-something chap who has cancer and is living on borrowed time, it means going all the way. He enlists his best friend Boss to go on a road trip to redemption—in this case, returning stuff to his ex-girlfriends.

That is pretty much the gist of One for the Road, the latest full-length feature by Nattawut “Baz” Poonpiriya, the director behind 2017’s phenomenal success Bad Genius. With this project, the 40-year-old director further justifies why he is considered a true visionary in Thai cinema. The film’s entire two-hour run brims with Baz’s signature style—a pace that seems like it’s running on adrenaline, picture-perfect camera work, and the use of nostalgic tunes from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra and Cat Stevens.

In this film, Baz also gets to recollect his days in New York, where lonely hearts are struggling to find love and their identity amidst the big city’s chaotic hustle and bustle (Boss is a bartender in New York before he is called home by Aood.) Having Wong Kar-Wai as a producer may steal someone’s thunder, but the many Baz-isms in One for the Road steer all the attention firmly in the director’s direction.

The casting is also pure genius. Standing ovation is due to Nattarat “Ice” Nopparatayapon (Aood), who proves that he is worthy of his lead role, whereas Thanapob “Tor” Leeratanakajorn’s (Boss) serious acting chops are nothing new. The guest appearances of the five actresses who play the ex-girlfriends tangled up in the duo’s messed up lives also work out despite their brief screen time—which brings us to the film’s problematic part.

One for the Road unfortunately falls flat when it comes to exploring complex human relationships. The power dynamic between Aood and his past loves is lopsided, with more emphasis given to Aood’s point of view, which proves to be a rather shallow exploration. In the meantime, Boss’s character seems to be the movie’s pity party—viewers are forced to empathize with his family-related trauma but, in fact, the way with which he uses this trauma to power trip does nothing but render our empathy so undeserving.

As these two unlikeable male characters pursue supposed atonement, we can’t help but question the film’s intention: Is it a heartfelt drama that revolves around redemption and forgiveness, or a manifestation of why the world needs straight men to engage in a serious conversation on trauma and their feelings?

The cinematography is undoubtedly beautiful, but even that can detract from the film’s favor, unfortunately rendering One for the Road as a cinematic journey that prioritizes style over substance.

Arpiwach Supateerawanitt
Written by
Arpiwach Supateerawanitt
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