The Last Resort
The disorientation and isolation of being a new immigrant in a strange country are explored in “The Last Resort,” a thoughtful new film from director Pawel Pawlikowski. Making his feature film debut, Pawlikowski delivers a film that looks and feels so real it could be a documentary.
It features a stunning performance from Russian actress Dina Korzun, who slightly resembles Emily Watson from Lars van Trier’s “Breaking the Waves.” Korzun plays a single mother named Tanya, who with her son has arrived in London to be with her boyfriend.
When he fails to pick them up, Tanya learns that due to their immigration status, they will be returned to Moscow. Her son Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov) doesn’t mind. He wants to return home to his friends, and besides, he never really liked the boyfriend. Desperate not to be sent back, Tanya unwittingly asks to be declared a refugee.
Her plan works, but backfires when she learns that she and her son are to be housed in a refugee camp. Imprisoned inside the working village, Tanya and Artiom do whatever it takes to survive until they can either escape or leave on their own will.
All of this is presented matter-of-factly by writers Pawlikowski and Rowan Joffe, who create real life situations and characters that rub off on us. It’s hard to imagine what’s worse: Tanya’s life back home in Russia, or the life she has created for her and her son in London. Tanya and Artiom are assigned an apartment that is serviceable at best. It’s run down and flea bitten, just a step up from some prisons.
Even though they reside in a government sponsored refugee camp, Tanya and Artiom still face the realities of everyday life. They have no money, and work is hard to come by. Artiom uses what little money he has to trade for some comforts, including a space heater. When things get really desperate, Tanya looks into working for one of the village’s more nefarious types.
Tanya needs a knight in shining armor, and finds one in village worker Alfie (Paddy Considine), who operates the local arcade. Alfie is like Radar on “M*A*S*H.” He’s the guy you go to when you need something. The more he warms up to Tanya and Artiom, the more their living situation improves. He gets them a decent couch, a television set, and some real food. He shows them a good time, and proves to be a much better man than the boyfriend Tanya came to see.
I especially liked the way the director allows all of this to unravel. He’s in no hurry to move things along, and in the process, creates a perfect rhythm that reflects life. This laconic approach gives the characters room to breathe and mature. It doesn’t take long before we not only identify with Tanya and her son, we feel compelled to help them. Their struggles become universal.
I’ve never seen Dina Korzun before, but I really like her. She has a lot of soul, and isn’t afraid to wear it on her sleeve. When Tanya finds herself trying to make some extra money posing for Internet porn, Korzun makes us feel her shame and desperation. Look into her eyes and you’ll see someone who still holds on to her hopes and dreams.
Paddy Considine hits just the right note as Alfie, a bit of a rogue who reminded me of a young Stephen Rea. Alfie is a hustler, but when he falls for Tanya, we discover someone noble. Considine’s performance is filled with honor and hope. He doesn’t realize he’s a prisoner until he meets Tanya.
I found unwavering honesty in young Artiom Strelnikov’s performance. It’s a difficult role. Artiom is tough and outspoken. He understands his predicament. His disappointment and bravery is registered in a performance that never borders precocious ness. When he starts hanging out with a bad crowd, we don’t blame him. He’s lashing out against the unjust that has been done against him and his mother.
Shot in a sparse, almost vacant look, “The Last Resort” takes us places and shows us things that we have never seen before. We take immigration for granted. After seeing “The Last Resort,” we never will again. Filled with impressive performances and compelling dialogue, “The Last Resort” should be any serious moviegoer’s destination of choice.
Mother and son seek better life in Last Resort
THE LAST RESORT
Dina Korzun, Paddy Considine, Artiom Strelnikov, Lindsay Honey. Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski. Not Rated. 76 Minutes.
LARSEN RATING: $6