TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! The Odd-Job Men is that rare comedy about the regular working man. Director Neus Ballús captures the essence of a changing world and acceptance in society’s most banal but vital profession—the handyman. Following three men representing three generations, the filmmaker weaves a story from the outside, peering in and from the inside looking out. Each man has a purpose and direction, but who else but a handyman who fixes the plumbing, electric outages, and air conditioners would be able to encounter the public in such brief intimate interactions in a believable manner?
From the start, Ballús establishes each character’s persona and purpose. Valero (Valero Escolar), a problematic and mouthy co-worker, who does not like change, is a middle-aged man in crisis with home and body. Moha (Mohamed Mellali), the new, young, stealth Moroccan immigrant, is quiet but dutiful. Finally, Pep (Pep Sarrà), the senior of the trio, has issues stemming from his past but must accept he is moving into the sunset of his life.
“…presents many interesting contemporary struggles of racism, ageism, classism, and city life.”
As The Odd-Job Men reveals the day-to-day jobs that take the men around Barcelona in their squat, little, white truck, it shows a city full of men, women, families, and children of all ages who are all on their course of life. From a senior who shares his longevity secrets to an eccentric photographer with unusual clients to twin teenagers whose scheming leave the men locked out on a terrace, she captures a world of interest and reality, but not without humor, beauty, and Catalan culture.
We meet Moha on his first day of work, and Valero’s ball-breaking attitude is rough. Moha, learning Spanish and living with directionless friends, finds his way in what seems an unbearable life scenario. At the same time, Pep is working less and is on the verge of retirement. The focus on Moha and Valero reaches a boiling point where Valero forces Moha into a confrontation. What ensues is men who know what the right thing is to do. In between what is a straightforward but poignant plot and story is the city of Barcelona and its inhabitants. The language, the architecture, the dailiness, and 21st-century city living in old, new, and modern dwellings with inhabitants who are funny, exotic, engaging, and themselves.
As a female filmmaker, Ballús captures men in a revealing and understanding way. She presents many interesting contemporary struggles of racism, ageism, classism, and city life. The cinematography is beautiful, portraying Barcelona’s architecture and streets at its best and worst, and the Catalan soundtrack is a delight. However, the overarching theme of The Odd-Job Men is how change is inevitable, and everyone has a cross to bear. As the film wraps to an end, you are left wondering who will be the next customer with a leak, crack, or damage that the men encounter and add yet another exciting or interesting life moment to their daily routine.
The Odd-Job Men screened at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
"…that rare comedy about the regular working man."