For anyone who has ever traveled to a place where the language is
unfamiliar or emigrated to another country, the situation can be fraught with
tension. Films have occasionally addressed this topic but none so powerfully
than Last Resort. Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski and made in an unusual joint
venture between BBC Films and BBC Documentaries, this motion picture is
the first in The Shooting Gallery Film Series for 2001. (The company, which picked
up year-end citations from critics' groups began showing movies that otherwise
would be unlikely to receive release in the USA last year. Among the titles
released were Croupier, Judy Berlin and A Time for Drunken Horses.
In Last Resort, Russian-born Tanya (Dina Korzun) and her young son
Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov) arrive at Stansted Airport in London expecting to be
met by her British fiancé Mark. When he fails to show and the customs agents
begin to unnerve her, Tanya and Artiom become enmeshed in the bureaucracy
of immigration. With panic setting in, Tanya requests political asylum. Mother
and son are sent to a holding area in the seaside town of Stonehaven, a resort
that possesses more faded glory than actual charm. Of course, the wheels of
government turn slowly, and Tanya and Artiom are forced to adjust to a life that
is little more than living in prison. Issued a rundown flat and given vouchers for
food and sundries, they settle in and attempt to make do. When her fiancé flatly
refuses to "rescue" her and suggests she return to Moscow, an upset Tanya
discovers that option isn't as easy as it sounds.
Life might have become completely unbearable for these émigrés had they
not been befriended by Alfie (Paddy Considine), a local arcade manager who
moonlights calling bingo for the local senior citizens. It isn't long before he
takes a fancy to Tanya, but their relationship develops slowly. Alfie gradually
insinuates his way into Tanya's life, at first bringing small presents (like food
or a secondhand television), later helping to redecorate her flat. He also bonds
with Artiom, and the trio form a loose, if unlikely, unit.
Tanya, though, is still determined to return to Moscow. Badly in need of
quick cash, she rebuffs an offer from Les, a sleazy "businessman" who operates
an Internet porn site out of his office, but eventually the lure of the money leads
Tanya to try her hand at it. (She can only bring herself to go so far before she is
reduced to tears, but she still earns her day's wages.) Eventually, she and Artiom
are forced with a choice: remain in England and build a life with Alfie or return
Pawlikowski employs his background in documentary films (like using
handheld cameras) to bring an immediacy to the material. Last Resort does not
have the feel of a fictional piece, but instead appears to be unfolding as the
events occur. Although the film is set in England, it is a country that is relatively
unknown to moviegoing audiences. The drab, grimy town of Stonehaven may be
on the British shore, but it just as easily could be a town in New Jersey or a
village in Siberia.
The performances of the principals are all quite good. Dina Korzun has
some of the same qualities of Emily Watson or Cate Blanchett: From scene to
scene, her looks metamorphose and she goes from being attractive to stunning.
Like those ladies, she too can express a great deal via a single look. In his film
acting debut, Artiom Strelnikov offers a fine turn, eschewing many of the cloying
tricks that most child performers employ. His naturalistic, even understated, work
meshes beautifully with Korzun's performance. For a twist, Pawlikowski has cast
a real-life pornographer as the disreputable Les, so to praise Lindsey Honey's
performance is a dubious proposition. Just whether or not he was "acting"
could be a matter of debate.
Anchoring the film, though, is the terrific work of Paddy Considine. The
actor offered a memorable turn in A Room for Romeo Brass and it's particularly
gratifying to see that wasn't a fluke. There he played a mentally unstable man
capable of horrific mood swings. In Last Resort, he displays a gentler side and
is equally salient.
Although the company has already received commendations for "rescuing"
films like this, one cannot stress enough the importance of what The Shooting
Gallery did by sponsoring this film series. Last Resort kicks off round three on
a high note.
MPAA Rating: NONE (sexual situations, language)
Running time: 75 mins.
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.