One For The Road

****

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

One For The Road
"Poonpiriya shakes the past and the present gently together, sometimes with a dash of nostalgia and, at others, with a splash of regret." | Photo: Courtesy of Sundance Institute

If you were in a bar with Thai director Nattawut "Baz" Poonpiriya, his idea of just one more for the road would probably take you through until the milkman did his rounds in the morning - he just can't resist adding shot after shot to this shaggy dog road trip about two friends. Perhaps it's the combination of flavours or the way he cuts through the syrup with just the right squeeze of astringent, but though this is long, the structure proves strong enough to take it and, in that regard, having Wong Kar-Wai as your producer probably doesn't hurt. Boss (Tor Thanapob) runs a bar in New York, where he woos a different woman each night with his cocktails. When he unexpectedly gets a call from his old friend Aood (Ice Natara), who tells him he is dying from leukaemia, he finds himself boarding a flight home. After he arrives in Thailand, he’s reluctantly recruited as Aood’s wingman after the ill man tells him he wants to return “some stuff” to his ex-girlfriend Alice (Ploi Horwang).

This initial car journey sets the tone for what’s to come, a trip that will see the men not only travelling across their homeland but also back in time, via well-worked flashbacks, to when they both lived in New York, capturing a real flavour of life for the Thai diaspora along the way. Poonpiriya shakes the past and the present gently together, sometimes with a dash of nostalgia and, at others, with a splash of regret. This first half of the film unfolds largely from Aood’s perspective and is accompanied by tape recordings of his now-dead father, DJing a late-night slot on the radio, offering the opportunity for some lovely needle drops, including One by Three Dog Night and Yusuf Islam’s Father And Son.

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Watching Aood’s encounter with Alice, there’s a whiff of pixie dream girl about it all but Poonpiriya soon disabuses us of any notion that this is going to simply be a piece of nostalgic wish fulfilment as Aood, who is basically using his encounters as a way of saying goodbye to his life, heads on to another ex, Noona (Aokbab Chutimon), who is considerably less thrilled to see him. Poonpiriya handles each encounter with care, balancing humour and romance with nostalgia and sadness as fantasy, magic realism and reality lap over one another.

Just when we think we might be reaching the climax of this story – and in a way, we have, as the shared experiences of the two men are gradually revealed – Poonpiriya lines those shots up on the bar and Aood’s tape flips to the B-side. All of a sudden we’re in another film – although it is handled with similar stylish grace – in which Boss’ perspective now takes the lead, as we learn about his home life and the love of his life Prime (Violette Wautier).

These are different ties that bind from the bromance tale that has gone before but because we’ve already grown to know and like Boss, thanks in no small part to Thanapob, who lets just enough generosity and vulnerability glint through the man’s bravado, it’s not hard to hop aboard for this next part of the story. The film’s strong aesthetic, with saturated colour and weather conditions applied at the perfect moments, help the mood to flow and it's further oiled by a jazz-inflicted score from Vichaya Vatanasapt. As The Rolling Stones sing Time Is On My Side, you have to admit Poonpiriya certainly seems to have a handle on it, bending it to his will as his film reaches its second, bittersweet conclusion.

Reviewed on: 02 Feb 2021
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Boss is a consummate ladies' man, a free spirit and a bar owner in NYC. One day, he gets a surprise call from Aood, an estranged friend who has returned home to Thailand. Dying of cancer, Aood enlists Boss' help to complete a bucket list – but both are hiding something.

Festivals:

Sundance 2021

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