1 item from 2001
An import from the Ken Loach-Mike Leigh school of social realism, director Pawel Pawlikowski's "Last Resort" engagingly relates the plight of a young Russian mother and her streetwise son seeking asylum in Great Britain.
While there would seem to be ample opportunity for sermonizing, the Polish filmmaker tells his keenly observed story without any heavy-handed theatrics. Instead, working with a mix of actors and nonprofessionals, he gives it plenty of breathing room despite the spare 75-minute running time, not to mention a gently lyrical quality that serves as a stirring contrast to the gritty surroundings.
Part of the Shooting Gallery's spring 2001 series, the film should help position the award-winning documentarian as a feature writer-director of considerable promise.
When Tanya (Dina Korzun) and her son Artiom (newcomer Artiom Strelnikov) arrive at England's Stansted Airport, they're expecting to be met by her English fiance. But after he fails to show up and skeptical immigration officials threaten deportation back to Moscow, a panicked Tanya claims political asylum, unaware of the quagmire of bureaucratic red tape that awaits all fresh refugees.
She and Artiom soon find themselves whisked off to the ironically named Stonehaven, a bleak holding tank of a failed resort area. Looking out onto a dilapidated amusement park, the area is a virtual prison. The train station is closed until further notice, while all the barbed wire and the presence of guard dogs make it very clear a jaunt into London is out of the question.
You can't even make a call without a prepaid phone card, which can only be obtained from a guy called Alfie (Paddy Considine), who manages the still-open arcade. After several failed attempts, Tanya finally reaches her phantom intended, only to be informed that he no longer wants anything to do with her.
With no reason to remain in their gray fortress, deportation is suddenly looking like an attractive option, but the backlog of cases means that they'll have to stay put unless she can scrounge up enough money to pay for their own tickets home. Meanwhile, the good-hearted Alfie, who has bonded with Tanya's son, does what he can to help them make the best of an unpleasant situation.
There's certainly a comment or two to be made here regarding the immigration process, but Pawlikowski (who shares scripting credit with Rowan Joffe) isn't interested in playing the victim card. Instead, he concentrates on the characters and how they function within the confines of their less-than-idyllic lives.
Korzun, a popular actress back in Russia, and Considine, who made his debut in the recent "A Room for Romeo Brass", bring a genuine resilience to their roles. Also impressive is nonpro Strelnikov and Lindsay Honey, a noted real-life British pornographer who conveys an authentic sleazy charisma as an Internet pornographer intent on finding Tanya a little employment.
Behind the scenes, cinematographer Ryszard Lenczewski, production designer Tom Bowyer and composers Max de Wardener and Rowan Oliver all effectively contribute to the filmmaker's nicely understated, quietly poetic tone.
THE LAST RESORT
A BBC Films production
Director-screenwriter: Pawel Pawlikowski
Producer: Ruth Caleb
Executive producers: David M. Thompson, Alex Holmes
Co-writer: Rowan Joffe
Director of photography: Ryszard Lenczewski
Production designer: Tom Bowyer
Editor: David Charap
Costume designer: Julian Day
Music: Max de Wardener with Rowan Oliver
Tanya: Dina Korzun
Artiom: Artiom Strelnikov
Alfie: Paddy Considine
Les: Lindsey Honey
Running time -- 75 minutes
No MPAA rating
1 item from 2001
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