The Last Resort
review by Dan Lybarger, 2 March 2001

As one can expect from a movie titled Last Resort, the first fiction film from Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski is often downbeat. While it centers on the lives of two Russian refugees stuck in a strange limbo in the seaside tourist town of Stonehaven in the U.K., the movie is frequently engrossing because it presents them in a believable and sympathetic manner. Pawlikowski cut his teeth making documentaries, and the handheld camerawork that is common in those types of films makes The Last Resort seem even more authentic.

The story (by Pawlikowski and Rowan Joffe) follows a young widow named Tanya (Dina Korzun) and her son Artiom (astonishing newcomer Artiom Srelnikov) as they go through customs at the airport. Because of some of the valuable belongings she has brought along (like furs and artwork), it’s obvious they aren’t tourists. The two hope to start new lives in London with Tanya’s fiancée Mark.

They wait for hours, but Mark never appears. Wondering why he hasn’t shown up, Tanya tells the immigration officials that she’s a political refugee. She hopes this will get her preferential treatment. Instead, the authorities force her and Artiom to stay in a rundown hotel and refuse to let her leave until all of the paperwork has been processed. This, they reassure her, takes a mere twelve months. Stuck without money or friends, Tanya struggles to find a job (her only previous work was writing and illustrating children’s books) or a way to sneak to London. Despite constant effort, they wind up in a further muddle.

In addition to imbuing Last Resort with a convincingly gritty atmosphere, Pawlikowski also loads the film with several fascinatingly seedy characters. Real-life pornographer Lindsey Honey is eerily charming as an internet-based skin merchant. Likewise, many of the other performances seem more lived than acted. The bureaucrats in the film come across bored and impassive, as if the routine has numbed them completely.

Korzun, however, provides a real contrast to her surroundings. She projects a vitality and vulnerability that makes identifying with her remarkably easy. She’s never glamorized (which would undermine what Pawlikowski’s trying to do), often looking as if she’s been forced to wear the same clothes for days. Still, she cuts a striking figure, so it’s easy to see why she’s a major star in Russia.

While at times a little redundant, The Last Resort is able to present the Tanya’s plight without degenerating into a diatribe about the insensitivity of immigration officials. There’s a remarkably skilled, if star-crossed, love story between Tanya and Alfie (Paddy Considine), a local jack-of-all trades who befriends the beleaguered duo. The two have a genial rapport, but Pawlikowski gives us plenty of signs that it might not last. Alfie is intriguing because he can be either generous or hostile at a moment’s notice. Considine, has appeared previously in A Room for Romeo Brass. Nonetheless, his handsome but unpolished features make him a credible jack-of-all-trades.

A lot of recent films, particularly a lot Hollywood flicks, have suffered because many filmmakers are under the impression that realistic settings or characters aren’t interesting. By following the lives of two inadvertent refugees and the working class community they arrive in, Pawlikowski proves this notion to be false.

Directed by:
Pawel Pawlikowski

Dina Korzun
Paddy Considine
Artiom Strelnikov
Lindsey Honey

Written by:
Pawel Pawlikowski
Rowan Joffe

Not Rated 
This film has not 
yet been rated





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