A review of  Last Resort” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: *** 1/2

Rating: NR. Partially in Russian w/subtitles

Run Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

 

 

A simple act of human kindness is the poignant focus of this straightforward tale of love, loss, and desperation.

For Tanya (Dina Korzun) and her 10-year old son Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov), trouble is brewing from the moment they leave their native Russia and touch down on English shores.  Tanya’s wayward fiancé isn’t there to meet them at the gate, and Tanya, anxious for entry into the country, abruptly applies for political asylum.  Her ill-informed and highly emotional decision is rife with disastrous legal implications. The pair are virtually held political prisoners at Stonehaven, a bleak seaside holding area for refugees.  Sticky bureaucratic procedures mean Tanya and Artiom will be guests of the system for months on end. Tanya repeatedly tries to reach her fiancé, each time leaving frantic messages on his answering machine.  With no money, limited job possibilities, and no opportunities for escape, Tanya is forced to dig herself a hole of imprudent proportions.

Enter kindly assistance in the form of Alfie (Paddy Considine), a local amusement arcade manager with a heart of gold.  Sensing Tanya’s keen desperation,  Alfie is compelled to help.  A paint job here and a warm meal there burgeons into something akin to romance, leading to a monumental life decision for the tentative trio.

Spare and finely tuned, “Last Resort” reads like a perfectly nuanced short story.  Minimal dialogue and maximum facial expression exude the cold desperation of strangers in a strange land.  Korzun and Considine play off of each other effortlessly, with a stimulating chemistry that transcends their language barrier.  Look is gritty and handheld, giving visual voice to the unpleasant living conditions.  Writer / director Pawel Pawlikowski handles the humanity and yearning of the socially superfluous with a mature and earthy sensitivity.