Monday Movie: Last Orders, by David Bax
Of all the things I found disappointing about Fred Schepisi’s most recent feature, Words and Pictures, perhaps the biggest letdown was the absence of his usual, subtle but elegant visual stylization. I had first taken notice of Schepisi when his floating camera and stark juxtapositions alerted my budding cinephile mind that there was something special about Six Degrees of Separation. So, when 2001’s Last Orders came to my attention, the fact the the director was teaming with the bold cinematographer behind Trainspotting, Brian Tufano, more than grabbed my interest.
Schepisi and Tufano didn’t let me down as collaborators. In telling the story of four men (Bob Hopkins, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings and Ray Winstone) traveling from London to a seaside village to spread the ashes of their late friend (or, in Winstone’s case, father), Tufano’s restless frames match the uneasy momentum of the grieving, struggling, reminiscing quartet.
Just as Six Degrees seemed to understand the Upper East Side’s moneyed liberals enough to be compassionate and gentle in its chiding, so does Last Orders present a hardnosed but loving view of London’s Cockneys.
Last Orders isn’t just about camera tricks or modern anthropology. Those are just the tools and the backdrops. In the flashbacks that pepper the story, we see that the dead man (Michael Caine) wasn’t always the best mate to his friends, father to his son or husband to his wife (Helen Mirren). But Schepisi (adapting Graham Swift’s novel) believe that friendship and forgiveness are necessities that strengthen one another.