Neil Young’s Film Lounge – One For The Road

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

ONE FOR THE ROAD

7/10

UK 2003 : Chris COOKE : 96 mins

Despite its apparently sub-Full Monty premise, Edinburgh Film Festival hit One for the Road turns out to be a surprisingly strong and successful British comedy: all the stronger for the way in which some serious undercurrents periodically bubble up through the larkish surface. The story itself is amiably ramshackle: a disparate group of men linked only by their having been convicted of drunk-driving – meet for weekly group-counselling sessions in an unindentified East Midlands town (perhaps Newark, perhaps Nottingham)

Hywel Bennett – these days eerily resembling the late David Hemmings – is the only name on view, providing welcome ballast as Richard Stevens, a sleazy fat-cat businessman who boorishly lords it over his less financially comfortable friends. Among these Mark Devenport scores most of the belly-laughs as Mark, a doughy, easy-going taxi-driver Mark. But the biggest impact is made by Procters delightfully two-faced schemer Paul: all wheedling vulnerability one minute, all vicious cunning the next, this is easily one of the year’s most skilful and impressive big-screen performances. The ‘plot’ only slowly kicks into gear, as Mark, Paul and their young pal Jimmy (fresh-faced nominal-lead Chisholm) scheme to fleece Richard by drawing him into a dubious business deal – an ill-conceived plan which degenerates into chaos during a drunken, violent party at the latter’s opulent rural mansion.

Cooke suffers occasionally from directorial “first-time-itis”, with moments of edit-happy digital-video gimmickry, and some over-fussy camerawork indicating a heavy debt to the bar scenes from Scorsese’s not-entirely-dissimilar Mean Streets. But these minor faults do little to detract from the genuine strengths in Cooke’s own, incisively well-observed (and extremely well-acted) script, and his eye for scuzzily atmospheric locations. Though often very funny, One for the Road is at heart a piercingly bleak voyage into a post-Thatcherite, provincial, pub-centric netherworld of delusional, immature men, clinging to David-Brentish mantras of management-speak as they drift together towards the abyss.

[rewrite] 16th June, 2004
(seen 19th August 2003 : Cameo, Edinburgh : Edinburgh Film Festival)

click here for the original note-form review from the Edinburgh Film Festival

by Neil Young