The Last Resort
review by Elias Savada, 23 March 2001

Good films come in small packages. Today's winner is Polish writer-director Pawel Pawlikowski's fictional feature debut Last Resort, a poignant Sad Sack tale of a young Russian mother and her son cast adrift on foreign shores. The package is The Shooting Gallery's third installment of independent films collectively identified The Shooting Gallery Series at Loew's Entertainment, now popping up in seventeen cities for two week runs with this British entry as the first of six pictures this Spring. The stranger in a strange land is Tanya Krushina (Dina Korzun), a stunning dark-haired beauty who arrives in London nearly penniless but promisingly engaged to Mark, a no-goodnik no-shownik. Hours, then days later, she and her son Artiom are detained by British authorities when she inadvertently asks for political asylum. And then her troubles really begin.

They are shipped off to a God forsaken bureaucratic wasteland, the dilapidated seaside compound housing project cum concentration camp Stonehaven, surrounded by guard dogs, a bank of video cameras, barbed wire, and a sense of doom. Rising amidst it is a defunct amusement park named Dreamland, where life for the many immigrants imprisoned there is anything but cotton candy and flights of fancy. The roller coaster towers over the area, but the only ride anyone gets is the red-tape special. Even trains don't stop there anymore. Accordingly, when Tanya learns her papers will be processed, she's momentarily elated until she discovers it will take twelve to sixteen months. Their barren flat offers limited relief. A settee invested with fleas sits opposite a wall decorated with a tropical paradise of palm trees, glistening sands, and golden sun. The illusion is peeling away, however, and, taking a look out the window paints a overcast sky filled with gray clouds of pessimism and desperation. The sun never shines in this resort.

Celebrated Russian star Korzun is a fresh face for Western audiences, cut from an Emily Watson mold, both in looks and passion. Her Tanya is a victim of cultural shell shock -- shy, insecure, yet in due course determined to find a way out of her predicament as accidental refugee. Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov) is a worldly nine-year-old with Leonardo DiCaprio eyes, always aware that his mom's never-seen fiancé is just a neurotic rat fink. He knows life would have been better if they never left home; mom just wouldn't listen. The boy is a prime candidate for dead-end juvenile delinquency if not for the attention of bingo caller Alfie (Paddy Considine), the manager of a second rate amusement arcade, its pinball lights the only brightness in this gulag a stone's throw from civilization. Considine, whose complex character study as borderline psycho Morell in A Room for Romeo Brass was one of the best performances barely seen by American audiences last year, takes his sophomore outing in Last Resort as a compassionate sod, a loser amongst the lost. And while he's ga-ga for the luckless Tanya, he spends an inordinate amount of time with the boy, indoctrinating him the ways of the western world and keeping him out of mischief with the local riff-raff. Tanya's busy trying to earn some money to supplement the meager food coupons provided her family, but it's only sleazebag Internet porno pimp Les who's earmarking any funds for the scared nymph. (Real life pornographer Lindsay Honey, drawing on his own dastardly experiences, rounds out this nasty role, dare I say, nicely.) On the verge of cybersex damnation, Tanya manages to gather up enough courage to salvage her soul and her clothes, in the process finding a friend and possible lover in Alfie.

Documentary filmmaker Pawlikowski imbues his small budget love story with plenty of hand held cinema verité humanism (courtesy of director of photography Ryszard Lenczewski), that zooms and whirls about the despondent Eastern European and Russian refugees. The director doesn't afford an easy way to categorize his story or cinematic approach. Producer Ruth Caleb notes it is the idea of escape, both literally and metaphorically, which underpins the whole film. Yes, but the director rolls with the ebb and flow of his cast and the environment that surrounds them. Pawlikowski apparently worked with a bare bones script and developed the story on the fly, while shooting. It is quite the nonconformist love story -- a new age tale of a very personal relationship set amid a mechanically bleak world. Last Resort opens a raw, albeit often uneventful, window. There's nothing but gloom outside, but even those dark clouds have a poetic beauty worth watching.

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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