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In 1920s Ireland, an elderly couple reside over a tired country estate. Living with them are their high-spirited niece, their Oxford student nephew, and married house guests, who are trying to cover up that they are presently homeless. The niece enjoys romantic frolics with a soldier and a hidden guerrilla fighter. All of the principals are thrown into turmoil when one more guest arrives with considerable wit and unwanted advice. Written by
John Sacksteder <firstname.lastname@example.org>
"The Last September" is set in County Cork, Ireland in 1920, just prior to the institution of the Irish Free State, the days of Michael Collins. (Mr. Collins and the other scions of the revolution are notably absent in this film.) The view of the film is narrowed to the trials and tribulations of Anglo-Irish aristocrats, and friends, who inhabit their country manor on their last Summer holiday in colonial Cork.
The film's strength is its microscopic cinematic views of the lives of the aristocrats and their guests. The filming is rich and startling. Small distracted moments are captured with amazing effect. Reflections in picture frame glass and windows are very compelling. The viewer is sometimes made an involuntary voyeur. This created a discomfort, an edge, for me.
Sometimes Gothic, sometimes just frustratingly slow, the film's moods are overpowering. I felt like I had been made one of the aristocratic "tribe", as they call themselves. I could experience their self restraint and quit desperation at times. I found myself twisting in my seat at these moments.
Lois, played marvelously by Keeley Hawes, reminded me of Lucy Harmon in Bertolucci's "Stealing Beauty", as played marvelously by Liv Tyler. The film has trouble staying focused on her. Perhaps this is to be expected, since she represents the
elusive True Spirit of the Irish, conflicted about passion and pride, freedom and violence. Fiona Shaw captures in her character what Lois must become. The relationship between the two women is a painfully powerful representation of the Death of Self at the hands of conventions, the consequences of classism, sexism and tribalism.
The handling of the the other characters seemed cursory and prone to stereotyping. Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith did the work and turned the coal of potentially predictable rich 'county' types to diamonds of lovably faceted eccentrics.
The film is not easy. The time did not fly by. There were many laughs. There were many stunning visual and emotional moments. I guess it was like life itself, in a particular place and time.
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