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One for the Road (2023)

Booth (Daniel Martin Berkey) tells the story of when a stranger stumbled into his small Maine town, begging for help. As he tells his story the dark past of that small town comes to light, enticing passersby and striking fear into the hearts of all that care to listen. One for the Road is a dark adaptation of Stephen King’s work of the same name, and it will prove to be one of the most interesting tellings of this story to date.

One for the Road is plagued by overacting, and the ship is never righted, and the film never finds its way in this regard–or any regard really. A friend of mine once pointed out that it’s not always the actor’s fault when a character isn’t successful, or even for poor acting–and I sort of think that’s the case with One for the Road. The film is troubled from the opening moments, and there’s seemingly not much that Writer-Director William R.A. Rush can do to fix things or even to make the film watchable. The acting is the most prominent issue, however. It starts with the very first line and transcends the film until it closes. Moments that should have been intense are drowned in ineffective acting, and the film continues to fall further and further from grace with every single word.

The cinematography fails to capture the subjects of the film in a way that allows any emotion to rise to the surface (not that emotion was really there to showcase anyway). As the film proceeds, viewers constantly catch half of a character or part of a conversation as a result of the cinematography. Director of Photography Michael Joseph Murray may not be incapable of bringing a film to life with his camera work, but based on what viewers see here it doesn’t look good for him. I never felt like I was part of the story, and never did emotion jump from the screen (sure, that’s partly due to the acting). One for the Road struggles to captivate audiences, struggles to create any level of emotion–and that’s most definitely, in part, due to the lack of efficiency and effectiveness in regard to the direction and cinematography. I need to be pulled into the film in order to appreciate what is taking place, but the characters feel so far away. Based on the way in which One for the Road is filmed it feels like Murray and Rush don’t care about the characters. If they don’t care, why should I?

The narrative is fractured, incapable of finding a rhythm or a purpose. Back and forth the film bounces, never finding a way to settle in or even make sense. I can’t seem to wrap my head around how or why Rush decided to frame the film the way in which he did as it feels frumpy and almost incomplete as a result. One for the Road fails in this regard. There were glimmers of hope present in some of the other aspects of the film. Even if those things never panned out, even if they never really manage to appeal to viewers, there seemed to be something there to say that it had potential that was lost along the way. In every way the way in which the narrative is developed and told it fails–never finding its footing, and never doing anything to spark viewers’ interest.

It seems obvious that there’s no cohesion in One for the Road, that the film, as a whole, is inconsistent. However, this happens in every facet of the film–both large and small. I constantly had to ask why some characters are so drastically different from others of the same group, why they developed so inconsistently, and how there managed to be no attention to detail. I never received answers, and I feel like it’s because Rush doesn’t have answers, like maybe the film was never truly a complete thought.

I never turn my nose up to the use of foul language in a film, because the reality is that it has a place in cinema. It’s natural; it’s a part of how we speak–but One for the Road overuses “fuck” so much that it lost meaning. It often feels that Rush wanted to see how many times he could say fuck in a single film, or that he just wanted to prove that he could use it willy-nilly without repercussions.

After nearly forty-five minutes of One for the Road it still felt like nothing had happened, like the story had gone nowhere and the story never really concluded. It’s been some time since I’ve seen a film so inept, so incapable of creating emotion, so far from success, and One for the Road just might be the worst film that I’ve seen in a long time. I’m sure the plan was to create something gritty and interestingly dark, but those things are never developed, and the film suffers a slow and terrible death.

Written & Directed by William R.A. Rush.

Starring Daniel Martin Berkey, Michael Lake, Eva E. Emmer, Allie Press, Matthew Ellsworth, Allie Press, etc.




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