“From One Second to the Next”: A Texting-and-Driving Movie Review

texting driving movie image

Reliably intriguing director Werner Herzog (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans, Grizzly Man, Fitzcarraldo, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, &c.) has added a new short film to his resumé — “From One Second To The Next.” This short, co-produced by AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, is the basis for the commercials that have been airing recently featuring the victims of texting and driving. While I find those commercials to be a little distasteful and manipulative, seeing them in this larger context makes them incredibly affecting.

Commercials & Empathy

The ongoing “Texting & Driving… it can wait” campaign has featured a lot of commercials in the same vein as the CDC’s most recent anti-smoking PSAs. Instead of a woman putting on her wig, putting in her laryngeal apparatus to allow her to speak, and putting in her false teeth, we see a man who was struck by an (implied) teenager who was texting and driving, and we watch this man go through everyday routines like putting on a shirt with painful awkwardness. The camera doesn’t shy away from these subjects, and we are confronted with people who have lost some of their essential motor functions, with the campaign hoping our reaction will be “Oh my, that’s so awful, I will never text and drive because I will never do that to another person.”

But the nature of the 30-second advertisement is that it’s bookended by a television program we probably care much more about, to the point that we tend to forget. When this sort of PSA is bookended by parts of the new episode of Breaking Bad, you’re not going to leave the television thinking about the high quality and impact of the commercials you saw, you’re going to be thinking about Breaking Bad. 

This roughly 35-minute inverts the model by letting us into the lives of these victims (and perpetrators) for about ten minutes at a time, enough time for us to realize the scope of the story and not feel like the PSA is aiming right for our heartstrings.

Four Stories

The film follows the stories of four sets of people affected by texting and driving incidents. One thing that the short film accomplishes better than the commercials themselves is that it allows for you to really feel the sense of loss of the people. When 8-year-old Xzavier’s mother talks about how her son was struck by a texter who not only sped through a school zone but ran a stop sign before hitting him, and she says that she can’t tell her boy to “go in the yard and play,” it breaks your heart. When Chandler Gerber talks about accidentally striking an Amish buggy in Bluffton IN and killing a 3-year-old, a 5-year-old and a 17-year-old, there is a haunting distance in his eyes that says more than any amount of apologies could.

The film does a great job of juxtaposing the banality of sending and receiving text messages with the life-changing consequences of sending them at the wrong moment. The woman who paralyzed Xzavier was apparently in the process of sending a text that read “I’m on my way.” Chandler Gerber had just sent “I love you” to his wife before he looked up and skidded to a stop over 430 ft. with an Amish family’s buggy in ruins around his vehicle.

Endings Happy and Sad

The most surprising thing to me about this film was that of the four stories, two of them involved a strong element of forgiveness. Reggie Shaw was texting when he grazed a car carrying two astronomers and caused their car to veer into the path of John R. Kaiserman’s pick-up truck. Both astronomers were killed in the t-bone collision, and Reggie has taken his experience and become a professional anti-texting-and-driving speaker. Megan, the daughter of one of the astronomers, talks about overcoming her fury with Reggie for taking her father away from her, and how she moved from hatred to acceptance of her new reality, which lead her to connect with Reggie to try and counsel each other through their new and more difficult lives.

Chandler receives a letter from the parents of the children he killed, wishing him, his wife and their new baby well, and telling him that God’s plan is not for them to know. They forgive the man that took their sons from them, and to me, that is the most mind-boggling part of the film.

Humanity has the capacity for extreme carelessness that can be dangerous for everyone, but what this film reminds us is that we can always be better.

Watch “From One Second To The Next”

About Nick Philpott

Nick Philpott is the Chief Storyteller at Lebanon Ford. He believes that every vehicle and driver has a unique story to share. You can contact him directly at (513) 932-1010 or nphilpott@lebanon-ford.com.