The Last Year (2002) Poster

(2002)

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6/10
A Fairly Good Story Distorted by Extremes
gradyharp18 April 2006
Jeff London ('Regarding Billy') seems to be a director and writer who is committed to investigating the various degrees of problems young gay men face as they live in a homophobic society. His films resound with an honest feeling but too often he settles for stereotypes at both ends of the spectrum and that tends to weaken his work.

The setting is a Bible College somewhere in America where hunky Paul (Ron Petronicolos) is entering his 'last year' of study, his summer having been disrupted by an incident that is revealed later in the story. He re-joins his longtime roommate Robby (Patrick Orion Hoesterey) but keeps asking about his good friend Hector (Merrick McMahon), a subject no one wants to address. He meets Hector's roommate Alex (Mike Dolan) and gradually Alex lets Paul know that he is gay. Paul learns that the Bible College has discovered Hector is gay and the Dean (Rand Smith) and his henchmen are out to have Hector expelled. Paul's changed ways are noted by Robby and he finally confides that his summer incident was a gay experience in a restroom - a fact that Robby finds repulsive at first but soon comes to support Paul's anguish about his parent's disapproval and punishment.

As Paul's feelings for living who he really is surface he finds solace and sanctuary with Alex and the two become lovers. The Dean's spies gradually intimidate the group of four (Paul, Alex, Hector and Robby) and disciplinary action is taken. Among Paul's discoveries in his rebellion against the Bible College's stance against gays is the fact that the dean is a closet case and that is the reason for the rough action against Hector (with whom the dean had an assignation). It all comes to a tragic end for some and a sense of freedom for others - to find out who belongs to which category requires watching the film! The movie has its moments, due largely to the ability of the actors Petronicolos, Dolan, and McMahon, but it sadly is buried by otherwise mediocre to poor acting from the rest of the cast. The work of Rand Smith, Penelope Ma (who plays the dean's wife), and Lawrence Rinzel (who plays Paul's father) is particularly weak just when strong acting could have supported the flimsier portions of the script. London needed to spend more thought on Bible Colleges, finding that more razor sharp line between right wing bias against gays instead of opting for the usual clichés that are found everywhere. That dividing line among young men challenged by sexual identity would have made a far more successful film. But the film is worth watching for the performances of the three lead actors - strong young men each! Grady Harp
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4/10
Mediocre (as expected from London), but with some good performances
eslgr824 January 2006
A film that could have been a serious depiction of young gay men attempting to reconcile their religious convictions with their sexuality becomes instead an often unbelievable melodrama bordering occasionally on gay porn fantasies. (When a supposedly straight student in a Bible college tells a gay student in the locker room "Take my 8 inches," you know you're far removed from reality.)

The film is also hampered by a pair of truly execrable performances by Rand Smith and Lawrence Rinzel. Poor Ron Petronicolos in the leading role of Paul has to play a number of scenes opposite these utterly talentless "actors." Hunky Petronicolos appears to be quite a good actor (despite some unfair comments posted here), but one wonders how much his performance was hampered by having to play opposite these pitiful performers. (Penelope Ma as Smith's wife seems marginally better than Smith, but it's hard to tell, as their scenes together are badly written and any actor would suffer having to play opposite Smith.)

There are some very good performances in this film: Sexy Petronocilos is a star in the making, and Mike Dolan as his boyfriend is also clearly a young talent to be watched. Merrick McMahon (who is by the way a gifted musical theater performer) nails his Latino character, accent and all, and his scene atop the tower is truly devastating and beautifully performed.

Other reviewers here have justly criticized the largely unbelievable depiction of the homophobic jock Bible college students (their locker and dorm room scenes must be seen to be believed), though I did buy the possibility that the Dean's homophobia may have come from a repression of his own sexuality and hiding of his secret sexual exploits (as the example of former Spokane mayor Jim West illustrates.) It also seems clear that the writer should have done his homework better, as a number of the references to (Catholic) Saints would not seem to fit an evangelical Christian university.

Director London might also have thought twice about casting straight actors in gay roles. Petronicolos and Dolan are both very good actors, but they never once come across as anything but straight, and Patrick Orion Hoesterey tries valiantly to appear straight, but is no more believable as a heterosexual than are Petronicolos and Dolan as young gay men. (It's called gaydar, Mr. London, and you insult your audience when you assume that we do not have it.)

Ultimately, The Last Year is the work of an only marginally talented writer/director (sad, because he has the means to make movies, but the results can never be anything but mediocre). There are many many good moments in the film, and I was often gripped by the performances of the talented young actors.

Kudos to obviously straight Petronicolos and Dolan for committing to the passionate kissing and cuddling scenes. I could (almost) buy those moments.

Then there are scenes and aforementioned performances that defy credibility and doubtless led to the ridicule the film was apparently submitted to at the Philadelphia Gay/Lesbian Film Festival.

Still, to give the film one star is to put it on the level of something like the truly horrendous Issues 101 when The Last Year is a seriously flawed (yet noble) effort, with at least some aspects worthy of a look. I hope to see more of Petronicolos, Dolan, and McMahon's work in the future.
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1/10
Stunningly Bad
claudenorth22 May 2005
A friend of mine saw this at the Philadelphia Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and reported that the audience laughed through the entire film. Then, when the director came out for a question and answer session, his first comment was, "I didn't know I made a comedy." Naturally, I had to rent it, but I approached it with an open mind, suspecting that the audience reaction was a reflection of the "hip, above it all, dismiss everything as camp" attitude that is far too common among movie viewers today.

Well, I was wrong. This film was one of the worst I have ever seen. The acting, writing, and directing were terrible. Particularly bad was the skinny kid with acne who read every line in the same way. He would say the first three words very slowly and then say the rest of his line quickly. For example, "Are...you...going...tothemovies?" Porn video companies make compilations of sex scenes from their various titles. Watching this film was like watching a compilation of the non-sex scenes from gay porn.
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5/10
not bad
teddyp8119 December 2005
This movie is a fairly well-written and well-acted project. I admit it has its Lifetime qualities: low budget (such as the sets and scenes that needed to be re-shot), a couple of actors who were not in any other movie (and for good reason), suspect editing, a useless montage, etc. Only one weakness in the plot though: homophobia and being closeted are not always the same thing. Regardless, Paul and Alex are characters that I was really able to buy into; there were a few other good actors in small parts. So I wouldn't pay much to see it, but if you can deal with the above, give it a chance.

I really don't understand how the reviewer whose comment is above (SunRock) thought The Laramie Project was "spectacular." I think this movie is at least on par with that one, except this movie is not a sensationalized documentary but sensationalized fiction. The former is worse.
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2/10
Pretty bad all around
silvertron14 September 2003
As this an extremely low-budget movie, I can forgive the technical problems like awful sound, horrendous lighting, odd use of background music and choppy editing; but I cannot forgive the silly, predictable script, generally awful acting the and relentlessly dull direction. Mike Dolan, playing Alex--the new guy-- does some decent acting with the lines he's given to read, but some of the other actors--most notable the guy who plays Paul's roommate--are so bad and so unbelievable in their roles, it is hard to watch. The basic idea--homosexuality at a bible college--is an interesting idea to explore, but this movie is simply inept and just plain bad.
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Earnest, But Inept
Doghouse-61 January 2004
This film has good intentions, but its execution (something the script should have been given, humanely) is strictly amateur hour.

Paul, having finally decided to acknowledge and come to terms with his homosexuality, returns for his final year at Bible college (okay, whatever you say), where half the student body, it seems (and, possibly, the faculty) is either homophobic, closeted, or both. Well, you can just imagine.

Ugliness ensues, cardboard characters delivering clumsy dialogue abound, and motion picture acting (?!) is set back 95 years. With the exceptions of....oh, why name names? Let's just say all of the performances but two (which are merely adequate) range from poor to poorer (and in the cases of at least another two, truly awful).

The only enjoyable moments to be found (on the DVD, anyway) are the outtakes. I've seen porno videos with better writing, acting and production values. I don't mean to be cruel; in fact, if they'd 86'd half of the "dramatic" footage and replaced it with explicit sex scenes, they might actually have made some money.
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2/10
marginally entertaining, lacks credibility, poor production/acting
jay_moseley7 May 2003
Although I don't regard Last Year as a complete waste, it certainly doesn't present a very realistic view of life at a small Bible college. I spent three years at a small Baptist university in a small town and my spouse spent four years at a moderately sized Presbyterian university, so we spent much of the movie cringing at the conflicts between our observations of reality and the portrayals in the movie.

From the description, we expected to see young gay men struggling to reconcile their sexual identity with their religious convictions. Indeed, from comments by the actors and director/writer/producer in the additional material on the DVD, that was the intent. However, two of the gay characters came to the college by mandate of their parents and had little or no religious conviction and the third had obviously discarded much, if not all, of his religious belief as he had embraced his gay identity. The frequent mention of St. Jude and the few seconds he is portrayed on screen prior to the end credits doesn't qualify as reconciliation of gay identity and religious (Christian) dogma. The reference to St. Jude is problematic as well, since emphasis on saints is a Catholic reference and all the other religious references in the film imply the college setting is a Protestant/Fundamentalist, possibly Baptist or Pentecostal.

The production quality of the movie is dismayingly amateurish, as is the performance of most of the actors. Although some of the scenes seem to have been actually filmed in the facilities of a small school, which added the benefits of existing ambient sound, the sound effects and score were very lacking. And, as much as I have often joined in condemning movie and television producers who fail to utilize gay actors to play gay parts, it would have certainly improved the quality of Last Year to have cast straight actors in at least some of the straight roles. It was almost impossible to suspend belief and see Robby as anything other than gay. In the most confrontational scene between the gay bashing jocks and Paul, it almost seems like Paul and the lead jock want to kiss as they stand nose to nose. And, in fact, the outtakes include that scene ending with Paul leaning the additional inch in and planting a kiss on the jock's lips. Another criticism I have of the casting is that I saw no chemistry between the actors portraying Paul and Alex, although these are the two characters that develop a physical and emotional relationship as the film progresses. Mike Dolan, who portrays Alex, brings the most professional and close to believable performance to the movie, but it simply isn't enough.

As for cautions, I think anyone with unresolved issues about suicide might want to skip this movie. Also the movie really doesn't provide any serious help to resolving gay identity and religious conviction; so if you are struggling with this issue, don't expect too much help there either. If you want to see a movie for light entertainment, I wouldn't discourage you from Last Year. But it is better as a rental rather than a purchase, because I am not sure many would want to devote the time to watching it a second time.
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1/10
Absolutely Horrible, Made Worse By a Trite Ending
pembrokesca22 August 2006
Warning: Spoilers
**Spoilers** **Spoilers** **Spoilers**

The acting was bad, the writing was atrocious, and the so-called "attractive cast..." nonexistent.

The portrayal of Christians in this film isn't only wrong on the overall, it's just unrealistic. If you want a real look into how Christians would treat a homosexual coming out at a bible college, see "Saved." I've lived through it, and it's definitely the most accurate portrayal of how they actually act towards gays.

But not only the attitude of the Christians is wrong, the content itself is off base. First of all, Paul makes mention of saying "ten Hail Marys," a prayer only said by Catholics. There are no crucifixes in the entire film, indicating protestantism, and all of the student read the archaic King James bible, a bible used only by Protestants. But the kicker would have to be Saint Jude, a key patron for many Catholics, never spoken of by protestants. Someone did not do their canonical research at all during the development of the film.

And the ending... is simply atrocious. St. Jude and Hector walking into the sunset? Please. And by the way, I don't think St Jude should be portrayed by some pimply faced swimmer boy in linen.

-Pembroke
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8/10
Touching movie with rough edges that's worth watching.
omar_marquez5 May 2008
The movie is about a young gay man attending a religious college in the USA, who (along with his friends) faces prejudice, and who must overcome the prejudice as well as reconcile his faith with his sexuality.

I found the two main characters, Paul (Ron Petronicolos) and Alex (Mike Dolan) pretty convincing and touching, and these two actors' performances are what made me watch the movie twice... however some of the supporting actors were definitely giving rather wobbly performances, so the acting is at both ends of the spectrum.

However, the movie is worth watching for its portrayal of prejudice that still exists in America (and around the world!), and for its message of tolerance, hope and love. So despite some rough edges, it's a movie worth sharing, especially with any religious friends and family of gay/lesbians.
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9/10
heartfelt and heartrending
yawnmower129 July 2007
What a lovely discovery! This bittersweet little film by Jeff London examines the lives of three young gay men at various stages of being out, attending a 'Christian' college.

Hector (Merrick McMahon) has been outed, is being persecuted by the Dean and his jock henchmen, and shunned by classmates. Alex (gentle and winning Mike Dolan) is new at the school, though a senior, because his father hopes the religious environment will cure him of 'a certain young man' from home. Beautiful and troubled Paul (played perfectly by Ron Petronicolos) is deep in the closet after being compromised in a library restroom over the summer. He hides his homosexuality at first, but soon tells his room-mate and best friend Robby (Patrick Hoesterey). Robby is straight, and unpleasantly surprised, but quickly overcomes his reservations because of his love for Paul.

The four boys become a little family and try to protect each other from the violence, intolerance, hate, and hypocrisy that surrounds them. Each character is lovingly drawn, and they all change in remarkable ways. Alex falls in love with Paul and leads him towards the light of self-realization and personal commitment. Hector, unfortunately, is not so lucky. They are all watched over by St. Jude, who appears briefly in one of the dearest moments in the film.

There are flaws and stretches of credulity in the story, but the overwhelming sincerity and heartfelt nature of the writing and acting negate such quibbles.

The outtakes are serendipitous, nicely edited and really funny -- happily so after the seriousness of the film. The interviews reveal the actors to be just as sweet, supportive, humorous, and genuine as they are on screen.
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2/10
What gay college life in a Christian school would look like if Lifetime got their hands on it...
JhonenV5 April 2006
This film was pretty awful. The cheese factor was so high it made it impossible for me to sit and watch it all the way through. The acting in general was pretty horrendous and the dialogue was stilted and ridiculous. The characters aren't people you can relate to but, exaggerated caricatures. Watching this was like watching a Lifetime movie about gay college students, except it was a bit worse.

The only thing I can think of that is worth sitting through this entire movies is the good looks of the main character, Paul, but alas, even that can't save this movie.

Avoid "The Last Year" unless you want to have a laugh at how cheesy and terrible this film is.
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9/10
A Heartfelt Film on an Important Topic
ufuzz30 March 2005
I have not only seen this film, but watched some of it being created. This film is not a slick Bollywoood or Hollywood creation, but a film created on a small budget by people who cared about the message.

The film is based on real people and real experiences from the writer's past. It tells the story of young men struggling to integrate their spiritual lives with their sexual and romantic lives.

I will not reveal the ending. But the things that happen in this film happen every day in "Christian" colleges across America every day. I know it is based on real experiences because I have talked to alumni of the colleges on which the college is this film is based.

The negative reviews I have read of this film give me the appearance of someone who thinks he knows "Romeo and Juliet" because they have seen West Side Story. Let them actually know the subject matter and try to attempt to create a better film on a budget of under $50,000.Then perhaps I will believe their reviews.
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Just What Were They Thinking?
SunRock1721 February 2004
Beware any movie that markets itself as being helmed by an "Acclaimed Director" - who has but one other vanity piece to his credit. Or, a film that bills its actors in the closing credits as "Our Talented Cast." Talk about compensating!

The production values : none.

The acting : would have been laughed off the auditorium stage at the High School Senior Production.

The script : rejected (irrespective of its subject matter) by even the most desperate after-school special.

A true waste of potentially very decent subject matter that deserved far better and competent treatment all the way around. So trite, so saccharine, so mawkishly sentimental, so poorly executed as to be patently offensive.

Not only: "what were they thinking?" But, why was the time and the money wasted on this production? Was there not an adult around when this train wreck was leaving the station?
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3/10
Heap big smoke but no fire
awp52910 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
What was hyped as a movie about intolerance against gay people at a Bible College turned out to be a poor second cousin to a soap opera. The acting, if you could call it that, was forced and had about as much emotion as left over cold pizza. There were several minutes in the film when I thought,"finally they are going to get the story moving", each time it simply sputtered out. When the opportunity arose that the characters could answer the intolerance the director chose to just throw in some sugary sentiment. The dramatic "highlight" where one of the characters was going to end it all came off as laughable rather than move the story forward. Then as a final slap in the face to the viewer the director throws the dead person accompanied by St. Jude in the final scene. I was very disappointed in this movie and felt it missed a chance to make a real statement.
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7/10
Story good, but a few things left to be desired
needxanax12 May 2003
As a person who keeps up with gay cinema, I found this one to be about what I expected from a low budget gay themed movie. The story in and of itself was grossly unbelieveable for the most part, but the issues that it dealt with had some real world implications that can be extrapolated. How homosexuality is viewed through the eyes of conservative religious parents and a conservative religious school is an issue that I have not seen a movie written about, but there could have been one written better than this.

The cast of good-looking unknown actors did good jobs with what they had to work with, and there is some promising young actors there given they have better scripts to work with. The writer/director could have done a better job with character and plot development, especially the one involving the dean of the school and his wife. The issues with the jocks were totally unbelieveable, but you can see what they were trying to convey with thier presence.

Cinematography was poor, and sound was horrible. But again, this has come to be expected in low-budget gay movies.

Although I am discussing problems with this movie, I must admit that it did keep me entertained and interested throughout its entirety. A 7 out of 10 for the issues raised, the characters, and the fact that something with so many problems entertained me and kept me tuned in.
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The Young People Were Good
bgray3124 April 2004
The "grown-ups" really did this movie in. The young woman and the four lead guys were very good. They were attractive and paced themselves well. How the "mature" folk got cast is beyond me. If there had been more realistic performances by their characters, the film would have been a great deal more satisfactory. The gay material by the young actors was nicely handled and not in the least offensive as is sometimes the case in a story of this nature. I didn't attend a seminary type school but it was a Methodist affiliated college and some of the situations really rang true. Now, fifty years after the fact, the world is really a better place. Hopefully there'll be fewer Hectors backed into that kind of a corner.
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1/10
Directors are supposed to get better as they go along
ninetyninedegrees11 February 2005
I saw Director Jeff London's "And Then Came Summer" and liked it. Although low budget, it is an enjoyable teen coming of age film with decent acting. So, I thought I'd give "The Last Year" a try. Bad mistake. This is like a High School Home Made movie. The digital video quality is so bad, I've seen better quality productions in people's home videos of their summer vacation. Mike Dolan, who plays the comfortable with his sexuality Alex does a decent acting job with what he had to work with. Ron Petronicolos, who plays the struggling with his sexuality Paul is completely unbelievable. And, I'm sorry, but Patrick Hoesterey, who plays Robby, Paul's roommate, had to be a relative or current squeeze of the Director or Producer. He's unattractive, can't act, and horribly miscast in his role. He ruins about every scene he's in.

Don't bother with this. It's so bad it's annoying.
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1/10
Offensively bad.
bighed21328 January 2007
Warning: Spoilers
*SPOILERS* Every aspect of this movie was bad. I could barely sit through the wooden acting and horribly written dialog. The suicide scene with Hector is laughably bad. I personally can't stand when movies try to make an idea seem more extreme or a cause more desolate by someone committing suicide, and I hate it even more when they do a horrible job of portraying it. Even the racy scenes like the bathroom blow-job are so boring and devoid of any substance that it takes a lot of discipline to not turn it off. This is one of those movies that you can't help feeling apathetic towards the characters, the cause, and the idea. Homosexuals should be offended at this attempt to draw viewers with a unifying theme that they can connect with. It seems like they didn't put any effort into this. Zero stars.
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9/10
A very entertaining and touching film
Jcr129762 January 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I saw this film on the recommendation of a good friend, and at first I was doubtful, because he told me it was a low-budget, independent film with a couple of actors that were maybe less than convincing. But I saw the film anyway. In spite of any problems, the touching emotions in the movie, and the sincerity of the actors, directors, and everyone else involved in its making really won me over. The story is gripping, deeply-felt, and the main actors and directing are great! The film truly has something important to say about America's attitudes toward gays and gay people in general. Anyone who wants to see the kind of hardship that so-called "Bible-believing Christians" place on their own young people should see this film. It's a real eye-opener. For sure, the Religious Right needs to sermonize less to the rest of America's gays and look at all the gays (and real pain caused) among their own numbers. This movie has much to say and will make you do lots of thinking long after the final frame fades out. I really enjoyed this film with its blend of drama, religion, and comedy, and I know you'll enjoy it too.
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1/10
Horrible
sasairport17 December 2005
Probably the worst movie I have ever seen. Cheap production values, horrendous acting, laughable writing, etc etc etc..I spent most of the movie cringing at the pathetic dialogue, or wincing at the beyond amateurish acting..My goodness, who was the one playing the father, or the dean, or the dean's wife, who must have seen this as her attempt to jump into A-list stardom!!!!!What was the director thinking, did he even try to give directions or thought about the editing process..Avoid like a plague, unless you want to join folks to claim they have seen the worst movie ever made. The only tiny bit redeeming quality (for a lack of a better word) comes from the actor playing Alex -Mike Dolan-, at least he act act...
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2/10
Amateur acting and photography.
loyd-438-92336526 August 2018
Serious attempt to illuminate a difficult subject. Many of the scenes are unwatchable because the acting and writing are bad.
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2/10
Another London Disaster
tommy56778 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
There's really nothing good about this movie. Cheap, low budget, poor lighting, and lousy direction. It appears to have been filmed on video tape. I don't know who does the casting or how these movies even get to production. Production values are virtually nonexistent. The guy playing his friend is so obviously gay there is no way he could possibly be believable in his horror about finding out his best friend is gay. Best acting ability goes to, well, no one. If I ever see London's name on anything in the future, I'll skip it.
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6/10
Low budget, but not bad.
cioraj18 November 2018
This movie kept me interested. It wasn't the best acting or the most believable story, but I think they did well considering this was filmed in 2003. I went to a Christian college and this was not even close to my experience. I found the photoshopping of Notre Dame cathedral into the college skyline hilarious. Also, the ending was really terrible.
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Enjoyed the movie
jaroslaw9924 August 2004
Most of what has been said already is true, overall the movie was amateurish, cast was not perfect, sound often was poor.

Overall, I liked the movie. I am fast approaching middle age so my opinion may be skewed toward the positive. For most of my life, Hollywood movies showed gay characters perpetually unhappy and suicidal and although it was sad about Hector, most of the other characters seemed to have learned a bit of tolerance.

I am tempted to say some of the actors did a poor job, but I really think it was the script that was poor, but overall the evangelical characters say the exact same things I hear at work and from a few of my family members.
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1/10
Almost makes the Seminarian Look Good...
hddu108 November 2016
...Almost. There is just very little (if anything) good to say about this film. Like it's later counterpart, the seminarian, this oddly and esoterically centers around closeted gay students going to some kind of pan/pseudo-Christian college (think: Bob Jones). But in this version, the college is run by a vicious fraternity of closeted homophobes and an even more closeted dean. It manages to cobble together all Christian (see: anti-Christian) and homophobic stereotypes under the common theme of bad dialogue and worse acting...which can often be forgiven and even cleansed with creative editing, but unfortunately for this film in all respects "the Last Year" is simply beyond salvation.
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