Nothing says Happy Mother’s Day more than an ultramarathon, right? Right. Comedian Jeffrey Binney’s part documentary, part stand-up comedy routine film “Once Is Enough” recounts his journey to lose weight by training for a 100-mile ultramarathon after losing his mother to obesity-related heart disease.
Binney performs to a live audience on a stage set up similar to a family’s living room, complete with family portraits hanging on the curtain-lined wall behind him. Binney’s love and admiration for his mother is evident immediately in his description of her, but his loss of her too early in life washes over his memories like a crushing wave. He recounts his childhood growing up on a pig farm in Missouri and shares his love of food from the very beginning. In elementary school and aware of his obesity, he beat the kids to the punch by using his wit before they could make fun of his weight. The humor stuck with him into adulthood, but so did the weight.
The film bounces back and forth from the stand-up routine to interviews for the first half of the film as he readies himself for a race he so coincidentally signed up for. He shares the impetus for his change of heart regarding exercise, vowing to not make the same decisions his mother did that led to her early demise. Their relationship is comedically and lovingly expressed as we learn about Mom, her giving heart and, most importantly, Jeffrey’s admiration and love for this woman.
The film shifts gears as he begins to train for the ultramarathon in Leadville, Colo., and the story adopts a documentary feel. Whether filming himself or having a friend document his progress, we feel we are walking or perhaps running in Jeffrey’s shoes. The struggles, the blisters and the exhaustion are sympathetically experienced as he focuses on his end goal. The film does continue to utilize the stand-up aspect to allow us to have more insight into Jeffrey’s feelings during his training sessions. His raw honesty and wit find just the right notes to make it humorous but never allowing it to lose its sense of reality. And all the while, your inner voice is saying, “Why not a 5k or even a half marathon? This is crazy!” Yet, as crazy as the concept is, Jeffrey takes us along as he entertains us and, more importantly, pays homage to the one woman who would have been the most proud — his mom.
“Once Is Enough” is a therapeutic session as Jeffrey works out his own feelings of identity and loss. We get a clear picture of who this person is and root for him to succeed despite the barriers presented. And by the end of the film, you want to reach out and hug him, proud of his efforts amidst disappointments, as you wipe the tears from your eyes. The film is also an inspiration as Jeffrey becomes an unexpected athlete, demonstrating where there’s a will there’s a way. And for so many of us who struggle with the relationship we have with food, Jeffrey’s insight and keen understanding will not only make you laugh, it just might open your eyes to see your own food issues.
“Once Is Enough” (You will find out at the very end why it’s called that.) is as unexpected of a film gem as Jeffrey is an athlete. His strength, determination and, most importantly, his love of his mother give us all a reason to want to walk (or run) right beside him. Laugh a lot and cry a bit, but connect with a man who loved his mom and decided to let her death inspire him to run for his life.
“Once Is Enough” is now streaming on Hulu, Amazon and iTunes.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.