You’ll find the three words in countless reviews of Malayalam and Hindi movies, but almost never in Western media. So what exactly does it mean when someone says a movie is a “One-Time Watch”?
Since the phrase is so uniquely Indian, there’s no standard definition for it online. So we have to figure out the meaning from the literal understanding of the words and the context we use them.
Then perhaps a “One-Time Watch” movie is one you’d only watch once. Isn’t that a comprehensive categorization? There are plenty of mediocre movies we’d only ever watch one time. But also a lot of good movies that we’re happy to have watched but wouldn’t rewatch later. There are some excellent movies, such as those with brilliant plot twists or gut-wrenching historical explorations, that you’re glad you watched but wouldn’t want to watch again.
So “One-Time Watch” generally refers to mediocre movies that aren’t great. But by its definition, it also applies to great movies that won’t be seen a second time.
But why exactly would a mediocre movie be referred to as a “One-Time Watch”?
Doesn’t that assume we all have enough time to watch mediocre movies? Or that mediocre movies are always worth watching once, at least? Which means anything good has to be watched at least twice?
The phrase “One-Time Watch” is a lazy shorthand that has seeped into our collective vocabulary. It’s three words that disguise ineffective critiquing. It allows the reviewer to pass a supposed verdict but force the audience member to decide its true meaning.
By declaring something as a “One-Time Watch”, you’re also shortchanging the people who created the movie. Instead of analyzing why you didn’t like it and expressing that in clearly understandable phrases, you’re condemning a filmmaker with three words.
So maybe let’s abandon the phrase “One-Time Watch”?
Instead, let’s rely on a more diverse vocabulary that accurately summarizes how we felt about a movie. Over the past several years, many reviewers who’ve used the phrase “One-Time Watch” critiqued how tedious, unoriginal, repetitive, poorly made, incomprehensible, disjointed, and crass a movie is.
By giving up “One-Time Watch”, we’ll allow ourselves to articulate better what we like and don’t like about a movie, which helps audiences and creators alike.