THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


I have really come to look forward to the Shooting Gallery Film Series. This travelling road show of offbeat independent films launched the sleeper hit Croupier on its first foray; on its second, it included two movies I really liked - Human Resources and Barenaked in America (a documentary about my favorite band, Barenaked Ladies). The SG Film Series is now kicking off its third go-round, and the release slate looks typically promising. First out of the gate this time is Last Resort, an intimate tale of mother-son struggle.

The title is a play on words, as most of the picture takes place in the rundown seaside town of Stonehaven, which - with its amusement park and giant arcade - looks like a once prosperous vacation resort. However, the title also refers to the struggles of Tanya (Dina Korzun), a single mother who leaves Moscow with her 10-year-old son Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov). They arrive in England to meet Tanya's fiancee, but he never shows up at the airport. Left without any resources to support themselves, mother and child are taken into custody by immigration officials and forced to stay in Stonehaven. There, they meet Alfie (Paddy Considine), the arcade owner who takes kindly to them and offers help where he can give it.

A single mother and her son try to make it on their own in Last Resort
The longer she stays in Stonehaven, the more desperate Tanya becomes. She eventually gets ahold of her fiancee, who announces that he doesn't want to see her. She tries to go back home, but immigration says it will take months for the passport to go through. Tanya is stuck - penniless and lost. One day, she is approached by a stranger named Les who makes her an offer; he wants her to do a live performance on his internet porn site. This truly is Tanya's last resort, because her decision affects her son as well as herself. (Here's an interesting tidbit from the press kit: Les is played by "real life pornographer" Lindsay Honey.)

Although that last plot point may sound a bit salacious, Last Resort is not an exploitation film, nor is it in any way titillating. Instead, director Pawel Pawlikowski has crafted an intimate story about a woman with no viable options to her very serious predicament. The whole movie has a feeling of despair as Tanya struggles to support herself and Artiom, only to discover one roadblock after another. And when she finally does get an offer to make money, the cost is potentially greater than the gain.

Pawlikowski, a Polish filmmaker, said he is interested in "social underdogs" who "haven't lost their humanity and their ability to yearn." That statement basically sums up what is special about Last Resort. Although it would be easy to pity Tanya, you don't because she is a strong person who simply has circumstances stacked against her. The remark holds true for Alfie, too. After all, he's also stuck in Stonehaven - and not because the immigration department is keeping him there. He has a whole other level of desperation, but when he meets the Russian mother and her son, he begins to dream that he can throw some good energy into the world.

Last Resort is a quiet little movie filled with moments that are heartbreaking and sad, hopeful and happy. It's a nice start to what promises to be another exciting Shooting Gallery Film Series.

( out of four)

Last Resort is unrated but contains adult language and sexual situations with brief nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 13 minutes.
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