SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! Director Baz Poonpiriya, known for his breakout 2017 Thai heist thriller Bad Genius, follows up his cinematic prowess with One for the Road, produced by Wong Kar Wai. With a new angle on love, relationships, and forgiveness, this two hour and twenty-minute film covers a great deal of territory between two friends, Boss (Tor Thanapob) and Aood (Ice Natara). The two hash out their life’s existence and friendship with girlfriends, mothers, and fathers through a cinematic global trip via New York City and Thailand so Aood can ask for forgiveness to correct a few wrongs in his life. With each meeting, Aood has something to give back, which isn’t always wanted.
The movie opens with an attractive cocktail sequence and then quickly brings us to Bangkok, where Aood is battling Leukemia. Without much haste, Aood and Boss embark on a road trip through Thailand’s coastal and mainland towns in Aood’s classic two-door BMW equipped with a working cassette player. The long-time friends seek out Aood’s past girlfriends, each representing a tape and popular mainstream song reminiscent of Aood’s father, who had a radio show. At each stop, a dramatic shift in Aood’s and Boss’s relationship occurs.
Boss left his New York City bar amidst a seemingly good life of women and cocktails to join Aood, only to learn his life’s biggest sadness is Aood’s doing. Just as each tape is a song about a woman, there’s also a cocktail by Boss, as we meet each woman and the issues behind the ruined relationship.
“The two hash out their life’s existence and friendship with girlfriends, mothers, and fathers…”
The music is obvious for the relationships in which Boss and Aood endure together. However, it’s the bigger life events taking place, which give the movie sustenance. In a twist from Aood’s goodbyes to learning about Boss’s life, One for the Road takes a turn and reveals that Aood’s greatest regret of all, which I won’t spoil here. When the drama takes this new direction, in the course of Aood’s forgiveness train, we learn of Boss’s disparate and bizarre existence due to his mother’s disregard for him. It appears that money was more important than her son. Although the film may lose its focus in choosing this route, it does add to the entire theme and outcome of the journey, which climaxes in a dramatic third act.
Poonpiriya, who co-wrote One for the Road with Nottapon Boonprakob and Puangsoi Aksornsawang, avoids forced sentimentality by having Aood never reveal that he is dying to his exes. This ensures that the focus of each stop on their trip is both timely and weighty for all the right reasons. It also bolsters how close the two friends are, as Boos knows but does not berate Aood for keeping it a secret from the others they meet along the way. As the two best friends, Natara and Thanapob share an easygoing chemistry that suggests a lifetime of memories together.
Although One for the Road is a long movie with many storylines, it culminates in a discovery at the end of the road that makes it all worth it. Thanks to the drama unfolding naturally and the lead actors, even when the film takes a detour, you are still right there with these characters.
One for the Road screened at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival.
"…culminates in a discovery at the end of the road that makes it all worth it"