Filmmaker Crystal Moselle’s short film That One Day tells the story of a skater who finds her place in a fringe group of skaters.
The struggle to fit in is a fairly common theme in young adult fiction, most likely because feeling like they don’t fit in is something that almost every teenager can relate to, at least to some degree. In many of these films, the protagonist eventually finds a group of outsiders of some sort, whether it be the skaters or the nerds or what have you, and they eventually find their place within that group. In That One Day, Rachelle finds herself on the outside of a skating group, until a group of skater girls take her in and adopt her into their friend group.
“Feel good” isn’t usually a description used for short films, more often saved for high budget family movies, but it’s a perfect description for That One Day. The film doesn’t present a story so much as it presents a series of atmospheres, but it creates these atmospheres so well that by the end of the film the viewer can’t help but smile at how the film has progressed. This is due in large part to Crystal Moselle’s directing, allowing her to project Rachelle’s emotions onto the world around her so that the audience can literally feel and see what Rachelle is feeling. For example, when Rachelle first steps into the skate park and feels overwhelmed, the film focuses on everything happening around Rachelle with quick, harsh cuts, shifting from sound to sound and moving body to moving skateboard, forcing the viewer to see the skate park the way Rachelle sees it, rather than just watch Rachelle react to everything.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t a story. The literal events of the narrative are almost secondary to the atmosphere and emotions they generate, with the story’s progression serving mostly as their vehicle. While leaving the story as a secondary element of the film is a bold choice, Moselle’s strong directing allows the emotions to effectively permeate every aspect of the film, ultimately justifying Moselle’s narrative priorities.
At the risk of sounding clichéd, That One Day emphasizes the power of having a friend group, but it does so without feeling forced. There is no moralistic narration that tells the audience that this is the message, the film simply stands on its own and lets the viewers come to that conclusion on their own. In the same vein, the film presents a similar message about girls standing up for each other and for themselves, and not letting guys put them down. But again, this message is made stronger by the fact that it isn’t presented as a message, but rather simply as a byproduct of the film.
Ultimately, That One Day is a film that thrives on the emotions it creates inside the viewer, and it creates these emotions very effectively. Due to the shooting style of the film, the emotion not only resonates but lingers well after the final ending of the story.