“Set in a troubled town in the center of England, life is tough for Toby, a local fighter down on his luck. His mother is an invalid; the town hates him and a particularly nasty businessman has plans for him that will tear his life apart. One day, after losing a crucial fight, a stranger only known as ‘The Collector’ arrives to take him away and drop him in the middle of an unforgiving landscape, where he will either sink or swim. Toby realizes that he has died and landed in a cruel holding pattern between heaven and hell, where he must find his own way, or be forever stuck going in circles.”
Directed by John Wheeler and starring Aaron Long, Simon Sokowlowski, Laura Marklew, Sarah Jane Whittaker and MacKenzie Arnold Williams, The Last Road is an unfortunately messy film that has a solid premise but poor execution. It’s wonderful that the scenery is dark and moody and gorgeous to look at, because trying to follow the story line proves difficult at times. The movie seems to be trying its damnedest to be abstract but it never quite succeeds. Instead we get a loose plot line of a man-child stuck in a type of purgatory, walking aimlessly and suffering different encounters that are supposed to have deeper meanings than what they appear as. Some of these meetings do just that while others…not so much…And after Toby’s first 30 or so minutes in this purgatory, one’s patience starts to wear thin as the journey grows ever the more tedious.
Then there’s the matter of the acting. It’s interesting – the women all did a fine job. They weren’t outstanding but neither were they terrible. They did what they were supposed to and played their parts well. It was only some of the men actors that I took issue with – for example, there was a character that was a former military officer of some kind who died of a dug overdose who seemed to have trouble expressing emotion. And then there was Toby (Aaron Long) himself. When he was playing just straight forward, little to no emotion, a chill kind of boxer/fighter/wrestling guy, he did a not bad job. But in any scene where emotion was required (particularly a negative emotion like anger or sadness) the poor guy couldn’t emote to save his life. It almost seemed as if it was just that melodrama wasn’t his thing so, “okay but whatever”. Regardless of motive or inspiration behind it, it was distracting. His death scene was one of the more horrible I’ve witnessed (just as an fyi, I feel bad saying that because I myself SUCK at death scenes. I am SO bad, lol) but at the same time, it wasn’t him alone. It was the entire scene. Every person in the frame was doing poorly and the way the shots were handled could have been better (too much cutting to the guy sitting in the corner of the ring, too much on the face of Toby and it was just TOO long). *sighs* Look, nobody here was Paris Hilton, okay? People just seemed to have trouble expressing passionate emotions is all.
Moving on…Fight choreography. This one was interesting. The fights in the ring – the wrestling – I thought were rather well done. I used to be a huge wrestling fan and not just of pro but I’d sometimes help a friend run sound for local amateur matches too. I was REALLY into it. So I was impressed with what happened inside the ring. But outside? I…I just…I have no idea what happened there…Fights were slow and sloppy and the moves were so very obvious. I absolutely understand the importance of safety first but comparing the fights inside the ring to outside is like comparing apples to oranges – entirely different creatures. I’m quite curious as to why that was.
Independent films are always fun beasts. Often they’re lo-budget and people are working 8 different jobs and it’s a helluva lot of fun. So sometimes things can get overlooked. It happens. But the continuity here in this film was horrible enough that SOMEBODY should have noticed. Having a cigarette be different lengths in a scene is one thing. Having someone lose his teeth, then turn around immediately after and still have them is something altogether different. I saw makeup errors, errors on marks and the such. Some of it is unavoidable if you’re working with a lo-budget true. But others, like the teeth thing, can easily be avoided. (And I realize there’s a chance the teeth thing might have been on purpose but it still doesn’t make sense if something from earlier is taken into account so…). If you can’t figure out how to make it work, don’t do it. You’ll be better off for it.
“Okay”, you’re saying to yourself, “she obviously hated The Last Road.” Well, no. I didn’t hate it. I didn’t entirely like it but neither did I hate it. There was some cool stuff thrown in there too. There’s a part where, after Toby’s death, he goes back home to see his mum. Except he can’t actually SEE her. He can, however, see the sheets of the bed bunched up around her (she’s an invalid) and see her shadow. Then there’s Toby’s dog, Prince. Prince is Toby’s absolute best mate. He’d do anything for that dog and the relationship there is touching to watch. As I said previously, the wrestling bits were fun to watch and the scenery is absolutely gorgeous to behold. And the concept behind the piece is a good one, a fascinating one – it just needs some work…