There’s something morbidly fascinating about witnessing a group of people participating in the absurd marathon car-touching contest depicted in German filmmaker Bastian Günther’s sobering true-life drama. It follows 20 or so people in a small southern town in the US who compete in a car dealership contest in a bid to win a brand new pickup truck. The last person to remain standing with their hand on the vehicle gets to take it home.
Questions soon spring to mind: how long can the average person actually go without sleep? Is anyone here desperate enough to publicly wet themselves for this truck? Haven’t people died from doing this? Why would anyone come up with this idea in the first place?
But One of These Days is keen to take you from the position of a bemused onlooker to the grim reality of being one of these sleep-deprived contestants still clinging on after 24 hours standing in unbearably hot weather.
Among them is fast-food employee Kyle (Joe Cole), who struggles to make ends meet and believes that winning the contest is the key to proving himself as a worthy provider for his partner Marie (Callie Hernandez) and their infant son.
Peaky Blinders’ Joe Cole does an exceptional job as a man striving to keep his head above water
Cole does an exceptional job portraying this desperate man who is striving to keep his head above water in a tight-knit but hard-scrabble Bible Belt town. The film zeroes in, too, on Carrie Preston (True Blood) as the contest’s perky organiser Joan.
But there’s an opportunity missed here to highlight both the tickling absurdity of such a competition and the ugly truths of modern American capitalism. One of These Days doesn’t quite nail the provoking social commentary you sense that it sets out to provide. Nevertheless, there are enough intriguing ideas at work – from the crafty camera work to the unexpected twist near the end – to make it inventive as well as hard-hitting.
In UK cinemas March 18.