Top positive review
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on 20 August 2015
Aussie Fred Schepisi’s 2001 translation of Graham Swift’s (superior) novel to the big screen is a solid, sometimes moving, if unspectacular, piece of cinema and, with its cast of 'ageing Brit greats’ would probably qualify as part of the seemingly ever-more-popular 'silver cinema’ genre. Last Orders’ low-key tale of four friends taking a trip to Margate to scatter the ashes of Michael Caine’s recently deceased butcher, Jack Dodds, provides much poignant reflection and moments of nostalgia, as well as an element of mystery as Schepisi subtly reveals to us the quartet’s past histories and secrets, underpinning the film’s themes of family loyalty and friendship.
For me, the film (in particular) provides a reminder of just how much missed is the great Bob Hoskins, here as Jack’s war-time buddy (and man with an eye for the gee-gees), Ray, and what an underused (cinematic) talent Tom Courtney has proved, here as undertaker, Vic, – both actors delivering outstanding performances – whilst each of David Hemmings as the grudge-bearing Lenny and Ray Winstone as Jack’s wide-boy, car dealer son, Vince, also impress. Schepisi uses flashback, not entirely successfully, to chart the quartet’s (and the always impressive Helen Mirren’s devoted wife to Jack, Amy’s) history, but, for me at least, the film is most successful (primarily by dint of the quality of the acting on show) in the modern setting as frictions simmer and past deceptions are the subject for regret.
Looks-wise, Schepisi’s film is relatively conventional, but Brian Tufano’s cinematography does provide some spectacular and evocative moments, as the quartet’s journey takes in the Rochester War Memorial and Canterbury Cathedral, as well as capturing the claustrophobic interior of Vince’s Merc very skilfully for the extended dialogue scenes. The choice of Caine and Winstone as 'father and son’ is also very apt – both suiting the (admittedly rather overdone) 'cor blimey’ nature of the script. There is also a nice touch (and Winstone-reference) as the 'Nil By Mouth’ sign is displayed behind Jack’s hospital bed. For me, therefore, a solid watch, meriting four stars due to the (mature) acting on show.