| The Last Resort
Director Paul Pawlikowski
Writer Rowan Joffe
Stars Dina Korzun, Artiom Strelnikov, Paddy Consodine
Running time 75 minutes
Made UK 2000
Reviewed by Rebort
The Last Resort could so easily have been another depressing British social drama. The film's title even has a suicidal ring to it. Fortunately, there is much to recommend here.
A young Russian woman arrives with her son in England to be with her London-based fiancee, but doesn't get beyond immigration control. After having been put into a holding area for immigrants in Stonehaven, she tries again and again to contact her boyfriend, but with little success.
Compounding her distress, the UK authorities - uniformed jobsworths - have no sympathy for her predicament. Instead, she and her son are shunted to a flat with a clutch of food vouchers to await a decision on their case from the Home Office - a wait of up to a year and a half, she is told.
This may not sound like compelling viewing thus far, but don't be put off. While the film has elements of the BBC "Play for Today", it is an engaging, sometimes amusing and fresh look at life on the fringe of British society.
What's particularly noteworthy is how un-British it looks and feels. Ryszard Lenczewski's photography is soft, full of shades of greys, and even finds a bleak beauty in the humdrum concrete landscape wired with close-circuit cameras. Adding to this sense of un-Britishness, Tanya and her son Artiom frequently exchange in Russian to each other and the town is populated with characters speaking in foreign tongues. This could almost be Eastern Europe or beyond.
Director Paul Pawlikowski's documentary background is particularly evident in his naturalistic, even understated depiction of characters. His style is non-judgemental: when a cybersex businessman, looking to employ Tanya, lies back and performs with a toy bunny in his webcast studio it seems both comic and repulsive at the same time.
Characters are one of the most compelling elements of the film. There is a real chemistry between the three main ones - Tanya (Dina Korze is particularly beautiful when at her most passionate, which is frequently), Artiom, who always has a word to say on his mother's emotional life, and the amusement arcade owner and man-about-town who they befriend (Paddy Considine of A Room For Romeo Brass). Out of the hardship and pain comes something vital and heart-warming.