I have a review of this movie out on Hyphen, but I’m recommending it here on Wide Lantern specifically to all screenwriters.
As One is a movie about ping pong.
Yes, it is, for you Blake Snyder Save the Cat! devotees, a Golden Fleece movie in the sports sub-category.
But what movie is about players from a divided country? Hah! You can’t name one (other than As One) because Korea is the only divided country still existing in the world. And it’s a true story.
Watch this because of its…
Every character is pertinent to the main story or sub-story. Every scene pushes its sub-story and main story forward. Every sub-story pushes the main story forward. There is no waste or superfluous scene or character in the film. For instance, you’ll want to root for a Romeo-and-Juliet romance, but that storyline has a resulting effect as to why the North Koreans are locked in their rooms, separating the teams once again.
Two bitter rivals. A demoted coach. Lovers from opposite sides of the fence. A younger player combating nerves. A threatening stoic and his class-clown opposite. Pertinent thematically, these characters work to underscore the obstacles of working together to defeat overlording government officials and the evil “Ping Pong Witch” from China.
After they become one as a team, that friendship has tragic consequences. So it’s not as simple as “work together and everything is fine.” Country of origin plays an integral part in the story as well. Seemingly insignificant clues are dropped that achieve character development in one way but serve the purpose in another way as well. A North Korean player falling asleep on the shoulder of a South Korean. The South Korean pushes her off. Then lets it go. But what else does it achieve? The answer is unexpected yet brilliant. It’s one of those “Oh!” moments.
Impactful but brief sub-story exchanges
Minimalistic with its sub-stories, the film allows arcs to develop throughout. Glances and one-line exchanges evolve into meatier scenes as the drama crescendos and ebbs. A one-liner about the zombie-like appearance of the North Koreans propels a romance that can never be.
There are multiple callbacks and running gags that infuse the film with depth and humanity. For example, the North Korean player, after being defeated by the South Korean, who eventually is beaten by the Ping Pong Witch, lets loose this jibe on the medal podium: “You worked so hard for second place.” The jibes evolve into tender bantering between the two. With the aid of the director and amazing actors, glances and facial expressions are employed very effectively.
Immediate and overall character goals are not only central to the story but drive the story.
A net? C’mon. Even if it did happen in real life, it’s sheer genius.
There are a multitude of other ways in which this is a great movie. Every element is important, and in watching, you’re taken on a journey where you feel you’ve experienced a lifetime in two hours. And then you want to watch it again. Believe me, it’s that good.
My MAPID writers group know me as a very harsh critic, and I fear that gushing about this movie may hurt my reputation. I’ll take that risk.
As One opens in select theaters June 1 and in Los Angeles June 8.