One of These Days is now available on SKY Movies and Curzon Home Cinema and arrives on DVD/digital from May 16th.
In 2005, an annual event where local people competed to win a new pickup truck in East Texas ended in tragedy. The competition in question centred around twenty ‘lucky’ people competing for a new blue pickup by placing their hands on the truck. Sounds simple, right? Well, not quite, as the contestants only had a fifteen-minute break every six hours, with the last person standing with their hands on the truck, the winner.
This small-town ritual had been the subject of the 1997 documentary Hands on a Hardbody, where a colourful set of contestants were placed in the headlights of filmmaker S.R. Bindler. The documentary was light, humourous and full of eccentricity, earning rave reviews, but nobody at the time seemed to comment on the one uncomfortable truth at the heart of the competition; the competitors were all from low-income families.
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The documentary viewed the competition’s inherent sleep deprivation and mental stress through a lens of comedy and sportsmanship. However, looking at the competition now, darkness was clearly running through the proceedings. After all, the competitors and their need for a truck was a form of class-based ridicule played for entertainment. Meanwhile, the dealership increased its profits through parties and sales. In Bastian Günther’s One of These Days, these themes of socio-economic hardship and mental health find a cutting voice as hope is clouded by manipulation and despair.
Kyle (Joe Cole) struggles to make ends meet, working in a local takeaway restaurant while taking extra jobs to support his wife and newborn child. However, Kyle’s car is unreliable, and his old truck is borrowed when needed; for Kyle, his family is his world, and he would do anything to keep them secure, but that doesn’t stop his growing feeling of failure. But maybe all of that is about to change as he is selected to participate in the town’s annual ‘Hands On’ contest.
Meanwhile, Joan (Carrie Preston) has spent the last ten years organising the ‘Hands On’ competition. Joan’s commitment and belief in the event are above and beyond the community’s expectations. But her enthusiasm hides a deep-seated pain as she attempts to juggle this year’s event with caring responsibilities, the end of a casual relationship and an empty and cold home. However, as the competition begins, neither Joan nor Kyle can anticipate the devastating series of events about to unfold.
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During our school years, we are told that if we work hard, play by the rules, and show enthusiasm, the world will be our oyster and success and comfort will be guaranteed. But, in reality, for many, no matter how hard they work or how much they strive for success, the door to comfort and security is constantly slammed shut due to where they live, where they work and their socio-economic status. However, despite this invisible barrier, these people continue to be sold a lie with phrases such as: “Don’t worry, someday your ship will come in” and “One of these days you will be rewarded for all your hard work”.
Lottery providers use this as part of their business model. For example, how many people struggle to put food on the table for their family yet buy weekly lottery tickets or scratchcards? The answer is, of course, many. But this is not because they have money to burn; it’s because lottery companies sell them a vision that they know is a lie. The National Lottery here in the UK states you have a 1 in 13 chance of winning a prize on the Euromillions draw; however, your chance of winning the jackpot is, in fact, 1 in 139,838,160. In context, your chance of being struck by lightning is 1 in 500,000!
Günther unpicks this truth in One of These Days by merging elements of the 1997 documentary with the actual events of 2005. Günther shines a light on the darkness under the hood of this community spectacle – where those who can afford the new trucks on the garage forecourt view those who can’t as mere entertainment. The result is a psychological dissection of capitalism and the rotten roots of an American dream where class still acts as a barrier to progress, just as it does here in the UK. Here, the contestant’s hopes and dreams are manipulated and controlled by those who already live the dream the contestants aspire to, with tragic results.
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One of These Days is a psychological dissection of capitalism and the rotten roots of an American dream where class still acts as a barrier to progress, just as it does here in the UK.