“One Kine Day” locates plenty of trouble in paradise, as it follows a young native Hawaiian whose present rudderlessness and future-planning cluelessness come into sharp focus during 24 hours of escalating crises. This modest, involving drama hits few surprising notes but feels astutely knowledgeable about the downsides to life in a balmy vacation spot, where the lure of permanent irresponsibility can bewitch even lifelong inhabitants. Regional release is assured, but Chuck Mitsui’s polished debut feature could also win broader home-format exposure, with limited theatrical play possible.
Discontented but uncertain about how to get out of his rut, Ralsto (Ryan Greer) gets the first of several wake-up calls when his girlfriend, Alea (Christa B. Allen), announces she’s pregnant. That’s far more responsibility than he’s prepared to handle, particularly as she seems reluctant to get an abortion (which would be her second).
Nonetheless, he spends the day trying to rustle up funds for that procedure, an effort that goes from bad (a fed-up boss fires him from the Honolulu skate-shop job he’s perpetually late for) to much worse, thanks largely to the harebrained schemes of pal Nalu (Nalu Boersma). A disaster magnet, Nalu gets Ralsto embroiled in cockfight gambling and bad business with a sinister drug dealer called Vegas Mike (Keram Malicki-Sanchez), culminating in an oceanside party where Ralsto’s haplessness, Alea’s exasperation and Nalu’s karma collide.
Soundtrack is full of good-time local pop, underlining the allure of slackerdom in a place where irresponsibility is depicted as a sort of cultural epidemic. While Ralsto’s long-suffering, gainfully employed mother (Julia Nickson-Soul) urges him to straighten up and fly right, Alea’s mom (Jolene Blalock) is still getting high and picking up men — no doubt the combo that once made her (and now seemingly most of her daughter’s high school friends) a teenage mother.
Without ever turning preachy, “One Kine Day” suggests how cycles of behavior can get passed from generation to generation, creating traps it’s hard to escape from. While there’s a certain predictability to the unfolding of events here, Mitsui’s screenplay avoids melodrama even as his direction heightens tension around what becomes a very sobering 24 hours for our protag. It’s to the helmer’s credit that what could have played as a day improbably jam-packed with incident instead feels laid-back and driven by chance, not least because Ralsto, who doesn’t have a car, must bend to the agendas of all the friends he’s constantly bumming rides from.
Greer isn’t the most expressive actor, but thesps are otherwise sharply cast and handled. Packaging is also astute, particularly Michael Lohmann’s widescreen lensing. For the record, “kine” is all-purpose local slang for “cool” or “whatchamacallit.”