It’s not quite a study of the gig economy, but there is something ramshackle, or even hopeless, about the operation in The Odd-Job Men. As directed by Neus Ballús (and co-written with Margarita Melgar), the film centres on three men working as small-time contractors. Every day presents another job—fixing pipes, repairing an AC unit, and so on—until retirement. The setup is simple enough, yet Ballús is able to inject more than that into her film.
As three first-time actors, Moha, Valero, and Pep (Mohamed Mellali, Valero Escolar, Pep Sarrà) don’t appear to strain in their roles. The trio is together because Pep plans to retire and Valero, much as he won’t admit it, will need a new set of hands to help. Enter Moha, a Moroccan immigrant trying to make his way in suburban Barcelona. The brash Valero gives him a week—and then sets about making Moha miserable. There are kneejerk reasons for this (racism, for one), but Ballús stretches her empathetic reach further than that for all three men. She also has an eye for capturing the wonderous and variegated texture of her city, in both its people and architecture.
The Odd-Job Men‘s use of voiceover narration by Mellali is perhaps overly prescriptive; as is the film’s ending, which is a bit pat. But why not? These three men very much appear to be playing themselves, and even when rough around the edges, it’s easy for me to admit I’d like them all to be happy.