Year Released: 2013
Running Time: 34 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: PG-13
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Extremis, The White Helmets
-This short documentary is on YouTube.
-Werner Herzog is considered to be one of the best directors alive according to Francois Truffaut and Roger Ebert.
-This documentary was funded by AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint.
It was about time I reviewed something by the famous German director Werner Herzog. A movie like this wasn’t the first thing I would’ve seen from him since starting Iridium Eye, but I know some friends of mine wanted me to check out his filmography as I do this whole film reviewing thing. Interestingly enough, one of those friends is from Germany, too. Just saying.
From One Second to the Next is a short documentary that deals with a very relevant issue that’s been going on for years: driving while texting. It’s become an epidemic with people getting into collisions while they’re busy typing on their phones. People have been severely injured, paralyzed, and even killed just by someone texting while they’re on the road. According to this documentary, there have been over 100,000 accidents caused by a driver texting. This documentary goes to four different locations in America to some families impacted by this epidemic. There are stories from victims, police officers, and even some perpetrators as they go in detail about these horrific experiences.
Since this is a Herzog production, I knew this would deliver and it does. Granted, From One Second to the Next isn’t a documentary that needs flashy cinematography. Everything is crisp and clear, but the aesthetics are both idyllic (especially in the rural areas) while also being gritty simultaneously. Each segment of this documentary goes exactly to the sports where each collision took place which gives the film more gravity in how serious the situation is. Seeing the victims, families, and even a couple of the people who were responsible on that same spot was heartbreaking in the harrowing silence. For a couple of segments, they even add basic text to what text messages were sent during some of the crashes.
The stories are so sobering in watching the people telling them. The documentary kicks off in Milwaukee where they show Xzavier’s story. Xzavier is a boy who always wanted to do sports and to play outside, but there was one fateful day where some woman speeding through a stop sign while texting knocked him clear out of his older sister’s hands and dragged him for hundreds of feet. He was only eight years old at the time this was filmed. Xzavier is quadriplegic with a wheelchair and a ventilator around his neck. His mother Valetta who narrates most of this story would tell him to “go in the yard and play” before the collision happened, but if he were to do that, the rest of the family would have to grab his wheelchair, ventilator, and additional medical apparatuses just so he could play let alone being outside.
Next up is the story in Bluffton, Indiana. It’s a rural town in the Midwest that’s in the heart of the Indianan Amish country. It starts with this man named Chandler who’s kneeling on the street while there are cars and Amish buggies going by. He was incredibly sober in telling this story as he barely even blinked while talking about what happened on one day in his life. I knew something was up with his emotional resolve. He texted “I love you.” to his wife that day, but after doing so, his car slammed into a buggy which killed three children with the youngest being three years old. The policeman who described the situation was even holding back tears when he talked about the forensics of the situation and what the children looked like after this vehicular negligence. This was so spine-chilling hearing and seeing this event in Bluffton.
The third story involves a woman named Debbie from Colchester, Vermont. She’s just idly standing in her front yard looking lifeless. In her life, she was always exercising, planning things, and had a sixty hour workweek most weeks. That life was gone. She can’t even leave her house as she’s completely dependent on her siblings. Debbie was struck by a teenage girl who texted while driving. She now has brain damage, slurred speech, double vision, can barely move her arms, and has a million dollar hospital bill just from all the treatment she had in order to survive. Even her pet dog was crushed by the car and never made it back. The siblings had to make a fence in the backyard, so Debbie wouldn’t accidentally trip and drown in the lake behind the house. The teenage girls’ punishment was thirty days in jail, community service, and five months house arrest for what she did which was way too soft. The perp wasn’t shown in the documentary due to her attorney advising her not to do so and most likely because of her minor status. Debbie was technically alive, but she looked so dead on the inside as her life was gone.
The final story ends in Logan, Utah. There’s a woman named Megan O’Dell who lost her father due to a texting driver as another semi-truck T-boned her dad’s car because of the driver swerving while typing on his phone. The culprit was none other than Reggie Shaw. He admitted to be big into texting everywhere he went until he starts breaking down when he finally talks about killing Megan’s father. One chilling thing he said was “I can’t remember what I texted which shows how important it was.” That had to have been the quote of the whole documentary which should really get people thinking twice about picking up their phones as they are behind the wheel.
These vignettes of those affected by texting while driving was certainly powerful which I’m not going to undermine in anyway, but I wasn’t a fan of every single element of From One Second to the Next. A minor issue was some of the presentation in making this look more like a PSA. Don’t get me wrong, this is something that people should see and one can make a strong argument about having this play in every driving class and driver’s ed unit in high schools, but parts of it look like it could be for a commercial instead of a whole film. The even bigger issue was the lack of details in some stories. Only Chandler and Reggie were shown as people who’ve actually killed people while they texted. As one could surmise, they are forgiven for their actions. I’m glad both of them take responsibility and own up to their actions like how Reggie goes around talking about the dangers of texting while driving, but let’s say not everyone would get that convenience in America if you know what I mean. I was also a bit confused about Valetta talking about Xzavier’s situation. Was the driver caught or is she seriously get away with vehicular assault? Because of the situation of Xzavier and Debbie, none of the female perpetrators were seen. There’s an implication that only men can kill others by texting while driving while women don’t have to have their identities known whenever they commit crimes. That’s what it came across to me even though they do mention the teenager’s situation in the documentary. I also had issue with John the semi-truck driver in Utah just laughing at the end by saying he doesn’t text. That was too soon, John and it was uncalled for.
From One Second to the Next was a powerful documentary that people should check out with this relevant topic. All of the stories are haunting and seeing the faces of those affected adds so much depth. There’s even a powerful motif of forgiveness when it came to Chandler and Reggie in their respective segments. The clean production is white impeccable as it’s clear in it’s bare bones presentation. I did have some issues with the presentation and some of the hidden messages by not only having the male perpetrators have to show their faces while the women criminals don’t take as much responsibility rubbed me the wrong way. All in all, this was a good documentary. Not one of Werner Herzog’s best works, but still worth good.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1 point if you’re a Werner Herzog fan
Subtract 1-3 points if you don’t like depressing documentaries
-Immaculate visual production
-Very powerful testimonies of the victims and aggressors
-Showing the implications that this could happen to anyone
-Unintentionally reveals double standards in how people are charged/convicted
-Plot holes in Xzavier’s segment with the driver
-Female perps not being revealed unlike their male counterparts
Final Score: 7/10 points
Content Warning: Teens and up. The subject matter is very serious with people being permanently injured or even dead by texting and driving. The cops even show pictures of the wreckage to emphasize how severe the cases were. It’s what you don’t see that makes the situations more horrifying.
Photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws.