One by One is set within a mundane English town where a cafe worker is on the verge of a breakup with her pushy boyfriend, yet her friends are what are making her life cheery and uplifting. However, after an unfortunate event, her normal every day-to-day existence gets turned upside down when she’s offered the startling revelation that this world is not what it appears to be. Here, she and her friends realise that the world as they know it may be on the brink of destruction, revolution, or possibly both.
This is Diane Jessie Miller’s feature film debut as both writer and director, and Miller has stated that this film has been a very personal project for her, and that is evident. Even though she started out in theatre, this looks like the work of an experienced filmmaker. Through her script, Miller makes us engage and bond with the characters, their interactions on screen and the situation they find themselves in. This is also strongly helped by a solid cast, and most of them apparently just starting out. The main character in Dion is basically the audience surrogate, and it’s thanks to Heather Wilson that we identify, understand and engage with Dion, and when she uncovers the major revelation after the halfway point, we completely understand her confusion.
Duncan Wigman has screen charisma about him, and Katrina Nare gives a very charming and likeable portrayal of a character who’s positively upbeat despite the bad stuff happening around her. Rik Mayall himself is someone who always had great screen gravitas, whether it’s in comedy, drama, film or TV, and here he’s a magnetic screen presence; whenever he’s on screen you really can’t take your eyes off him. It’s still sad that Mayall is no longer with us, but this reminds us why he was a true bona fide screen icon.
The film touches upon very real themes like friendship, loss, love and working within a troubled climate, yet Miller handles them in a very honest and believable manner that doesn’t feel clichéd or contrived. But, shortly after the unfortunate incident, the revelations are revealed and that’s when the film touches upon weightier concepts like human annihilation, manipulating governments and conspiracies surrounding major events. In a way, it’s like the film’s offering new possibilities as to how we perceive the environments surrounding us and the interactions and relationships of the people within it. It’s almost as if Miller is trying to get across the controversial message that we should question everything, which is understandable and Miller does do her best to make that message exhilarating within the drama. However, when this was going on it occasionally felt like being lectured heavily, and the final turn-to-camera moment was far too on the nose and made the lecturing more evident.
Overall, One by One is an emotionally involving drama, with solid performances, powerful themes and a solid narrative from Diane Jessie Miller. The film’s central metaphor may be overripe and overwritten at times, but if you can get past that, you will find this compelling viewing. It took very long to complete and distribute with the film finally getting a limited showing very soon in selected cinemas, such as Nottingham and Romford, so if you can get to one of those showings then it’s certainly worth checking out.
ONE BY ONE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: DIANE JESSIE MILLER / HEATHER MILLER, SEAN MEYER, DUNCAN WIGMAN, STEVEN MACAULAY, KATRINA NARE, RIK MAYALL / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 19TH (SCREENING DETAILS HERE)
Expected Rating: 7 out of 10