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By midlandsmovies, Jul 26 2018 07:31PM

Last Call (2018)

Directed by Harrington Day

Land Ahead Films

How people cope, or don’t, with the loss of a loved one is just one of the questions posed in new drama Last Call from Midlands writer-actor-director Harrington Day.

A proud Father (Harrington himself as Harry) takes his six-year old daughter Ellie shopping, but soon their touching tranquillity is brought to a horrific end by a young male driver called Ryan (played by David Kelly-Smith). With dance music hedonism and distracted by a ringing mobile phone, the man fails to pay full attention and the young girl is devastatingly killed.

Ending with a well-framed “God-shot”, the short jumps to the household of Ryan’s family as he ruminates on his mistakes. “Low life scum” quotes step-father David (David Leo McLaughlin) as he reads aloud from one of the many obnoxious scrawls posted through their letterbox by angry neighbours after Ryan receives a lenient court sentence.

The fantastic piano music score is a great accompaniment to the dark themes of the short as lonely melancholic notes reflect a family tearing itself apart. With little sympathy David throws accusations of selfishness at the boy who has escaped a prison sentence but hasn’t escaped a life mired in remorse. Protecting her son from further stigma, Ryan’s mother (a distressed Tracy Gabbitas as Kathy) says David should leave, knowing the demons already facing her loved one.

The bulk of the short however is an extended emotional scene as we return to the forlorn father – carrying a bottle of liquor and haunted by ghostly voices – when Harry meets with his upset wife in a church.

A great location, and well-filmed by Day, the church echoes the film’s mature themes focusing on our errors, regret and sin. The dialogue here begins by being a bit on the nose – “You’ve got your whole life to live”, “I’ve got nowhere else to go” – making the clichéd monologue feel a bit redundant owing to the great set-up work already delivered.

However, the scene soon rises above with two terrific performances from the couple. Harrington’s heart-broken father drowning his sorrows in drink (a metaphorical “last call” at the bar) is powerful in its rawness. Claire Lowrie (as Susan) gives a divine performance as a devout wife dealing with the harrowing outcomes of their loss.

The sacred truths that come out are tragic and painful, yet completely believable. Her sacrifice and honesty creates tension as Harry’s “call to prayer” (or call to arms?) ends with him cursing his predicament.

Kneeling at the altar of drink, Harry’s alcoholism is also echoed with Ryan’s mum as both individuals drug themselves into numbness to deal with the ramifications of the tragedy. However, with guilt on all sides, the film doesn’t attempt to lay blame, positioning its main players as all victims plagued by terrible mistakes.

With two of the best performances I have seen in a Midlands film in recent memory (and a great support cast too) the strong emotional beats will have audiences enthralled, making Last Call a captivating and gripping film.

The director’s devotion to getting great actors to deliver committed roles is the short’s highlight however. An emotional ride that could lead to self-destruction, audiences will see how a phone call can change life in a heartbeat. But can it save one? Well, with terrific storytelling and an emotional core, I highly recommend checking out the chilling Last Call to find out.

Mike Sales

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