Art can shape this world of ours and inform our culture. Every once in a while a movie can strike an emotional chord so strongly it cannot…. and will not be ignored.
Last Call is one of those movies. This hope is what led me to see this movie at the Dances With Films Festival.
Last Call tells the tale of a bitterly alone man, Scott, played by Daved Wilkins (“The Mindy Project (TV)”) who calls the Suicide prevention hotline, but accidentally calls Beth, a janitor played by Sarah Booth (“The Scarehouse”, “Helix (TV)”).
Beth answers the call, she quickly empathizes with Scott’s situation. They open up to each other in a genuine and sometimes humorous way.
Make no mistake, this is a Drama. Last Call dives directly into the heavy topic of the value of human life, and it fully honors that subject matter in the way it was made.
Last Call was shot as two uninterrupted, simultaneous single takes and shows both of these characters in a split screen. Director, writer Gavin Michael Booth and writer, actor Daved Wilkins go into detail on the making of Last Call in our interview here on OC Movie Reviews. I’ll skip those points and encourage you to read that interview after this.
Now that I have seen the movie I must admit Last Call exceeded my expectations which were already high. Yes this was all done in a single take, it was presented as a split screen, but this was not a gimmick.
This was simply the best possible way to tell this story, and the cast and crew pushed on unflinchingly. Last Call is a rare gem. The camera work, the acting, the stirring score by Adrian Ellis, it is rare that all these elements work in perfect concert, as it does with Last Call.
The writing feels like a play, which is a huge compliment for a contained character study such as this. Moments of dark humor were well placed throughout, a much needed medicine.
Even the technique of the split screen was in full service of the story. At a few key moments the divide of the split screen goes from horizontal to vertical, but this was not abrupt, the split slowly rotates, like the arms of a ticking clock. I will not spoil the reasons why, but these changes were carefully planned and have a tremendous impact.
The acting by Sarah Booth and Daved Wilkins was honest and emotionally charged. Despite some crucial similarities, the duality between these two is strong, which only adds to the overall quality of the storytelling.
Last Call is a divine dance of a film. These two characters are flawed, yet they have tenderness and in some ways are victims of life. What we get on full display here, is the kind of humanity and compassion that deep down we are all capable of, but is sadly, often lost on us.
In my interview with the filmmakers I compared Last Call to the movie Timecode, this was only because I had not seen Last Call at that point.
While I still like Timecode as a bold exercise, Last Call succeeds in every way that Timecode wavers. The script and planning of Last Call was so thought out, so well executed, that no comparison is necessary.
I have seen many of these single take movies, Victoria, PVC-1 and Russian Ark, Last Call is by far the best.
These final words may sound over-reaching, but I promise you, for someone who was at the packed screening at Dances With Films it is not.
Like everyone else in that theater I sat in wonder at Last Call. Tears were shed, souls were fed. The full house was moved by a score which soared, a song playing just for two halves of a whole, who clashed in the night to remind us to do what is right.
The closing credits started, and we clapped for a very long time. I only think we stopped because the audio mix led us to believe more of the story was about to be revealed.
The cast and filmmakers were welcomed by a standing ovation. We have all heard about these glowing receptions at Cannes or Sundance, but this is the first time I was part of one.
I tell you the feeling in the room was electric. The end of the Q and A gave rise to a second standing ovation. Last Call is still on its film festival run, so I urge you to see it in a theater if you can.
I do not own a distribution company, but if I did, I would say we need to give Last Call a competitive offer. It may not have a globally recognizable star to put on the poster, but it doesn’t need to.
Last Call should be seen because its unique storytelling is a selling point of its own. Powerful and unique, Last Call is at least that, but it just may live forever as a piece of cinema history.