Film Review: One For The Road

FIFTY+SA Arts Reviewer, Dave Bradley, reviews One For The Road screening as part of this year’s HSBC German Film Festival at Palace Nova.

Director (and co-producer and co-editor) Markus Goller’s latest is a character drama on the edge of despair, with preachy moments and underwritten characters all compensated for by strong performances throughout.

Mark (Frederick Lau) is a foreman on a Berlin construction site, and he’s introduced getting wild and sloppy while smashed at a bar, as The Slits’ version of I Heard It Through The Grapevine plays. When he spies his car awkwardly parked, he gets in and drives only a few feet to rectify it, and that’s the very moment that he’s busted for drink-driving.

Losing his license and forced to take an MPU (Medical-Psychological Examination) course, Mark insists that he doesn’t have a problem, but then he seriously embarrasses himself at a friend’s housewarming party and has no choice but to wonder if he’s actually right. He makes a bet with bestie Nadim (Burak Yiğit) that he can quit alcohol for a month, and he at first enjoys being booze-free, as he takes up swimming laps, cleans up his apartment, and generally tries to get his act together. And then things get really difficult.

Lau’s Mark is the centrepiece of director Goller’s film, and his playing makes up for the flaws, especially the characterisation of Helena (Nora Tschirner), another alcoholic he meets at the course who’s helpfully there when he needs her but, otherwise, doesn’t have much of a life of her own. Indeed, it’s hard to overstate what a great performance it is, because he must make sure that we like Mark and sympathise with him, even as he does dreadful things. And that we would also happily strangle him.

Perhaps the most subversive message here, too, is one shared by the Danish drama Another Round (Druk): as the modern world is so cold and awful then surely getting wasted is really the only logical response to deal with it?

And no American movie would dare say that!

One For The Road is screening as part of this year’s HSBC German Film Festival


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