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:: Last Orders

Fred Schepisi is a remarkable Australian feature film director. His extraordinarily diverse body of work includes films such as The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Roxanne, The Russia House, Evil Angels and Six Degrees of Separation. His latest feature, Last Orders is based on Graham Swift’s booker prize winning novel and features a very impressive ensemble cast including; Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings and Ray Winstone.

The film is set in the 1980’s in Bermondsey, England and follows a group of old friends who embark on a road trip to scatter their recently departed friend, Jack Dodd’s (Michael Caine) ashes off the pier in the seaside town of Margate. Although Ray “Lucky” Johnson (Bob Hoskins), grew up in the same town as Jack, they didn’t meet until the war when they served together in Egypt. On returning home, Jack introduced Ray to his girl, Amy (Helen Mirren) and his friends, Lenny (David Hemmings), the fruit and veg stall owner and Vic (Tom Courtenay) the undertaker. From there on in, they were inseparable not only from each other but also from the local pub the Coach and Horses.

Jack, the local butcher and Amy seemed set to have a happy life together until their first born, June (Laura Morelli), conceived one romantic summer’s afternoon whilst hop picking in the beautiful surrounds of Wick’s farm, is born with severe mental disabilities. Unable to come to terms with his daughter’s disabilities, Jack decides he wants nothing to do with her, which tears Amy in half. With the arrival of their son Vince (Ray Winstone), the three of them, together with Sally, Lenny’s daughter, take trips in their little red van to Margate for the summer and become the uncomplicated nuclear family that Jack has always wanted. But Amy never really gets over it and insists on visiting June every Thursday, even if she never shows any signs of recognising Amy.

Jack also has trouble dealing with Vince as he grows up and wants to open a second hand car dealership rather than follow his old man into the family business. This is despite the fact that Jack didn’t always want to be a butcher either and would ideally have liked to become a doctor, just like Lenny would have liked to have been a boxer and Ray, a jockey. As Jack and Amy and indeed June and Vince grow older, so too do the others, who face the problems that everyone faces as life deals us the cards we are then forced to play. At the end of the day, as Jack tells Vince, the film is saying that in life: “be careful not to throw out the good with the bad.”

The film utilises the techniques Schepisi refined in Six Degrees of Separation, of seamlessly moving through different places and different times and ending up back where you started and Last Orders managed to achieve this with no less than 19 time zones. The resounding success of Last Orders is in its ability to trace the characters’ physical and metaphorical journeys as they reminisce about who they once were, what they wanted to be and what they have now become and how that has been shaped by the people around them.

The film is about ordinary people with ordinary hopes and dreams not just trying to make a go of it in life, but trying to have a bit of a laugh along with it. Although overly theatrical sometimes, the film’s sense of humour is demonstrated by the fact that you walk away from the film with an astounding thirst that can only be quenched by a full pint of beer. Through it’s characters the film is able to explores issues such as love and friendship, fate and chance, life and death and have a bit of a laugh too.

Screening at Cinema Como, Cinema Nova, Cinema europa, Kino Cinemas, Brighton Bay Cinemas, and the Rivoli Cinemas.