Last Resort

Kindness of strangers. Arcade owner Alfie (Considine) helps inadvertent refugee Tanya (Korzun) and her son (Strelnikov).
dir Pawel Pawlikowski
scr Pawel Pawlikowski, Rowan Joffe
with Dina Korzun, Paddy Considine, Artiom Strelnikov, Lindsey Honey, Dave Bean, Katie Drinkwater, Daniel Mobey, Perry Benson, Adrian Scarborough, David Auker, Zoe Sharpe, Bruce Byron
release UK 16.Mar.01; US Sundance Jan.01
winner best new British feature (Edinburgh 00); best film, actor Considine, actress Korzun, international critics prize (Thessaloniki 00)
BBC 00/UK 1h15 4 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
This remarkable little film takes a startlingly honest look at foreigners who get caught up in bureaucracy and inflexibility in a strange country. Clever and very funny, yet also deadly serious, the film feels almost like a documentary as it follows single mother Tanya (Korzun) and her early-teen son (Strelnikov) on their odyssey. Arriving from Moscow at London's Stansted Airport, they don't understand why Tanya's English fiance isn't there to meet them. In a panic, Tanya claims political asylum, thinking she can sort things out as long as they can stay in Britain. But they're sent to a holding area on the seaside--a bleak and long-abandoned resort town where they must stay while their application is processed. Basically, it's like being sentenced to 18 months on Alcatraz! Two men offer to help in very different ways: a friendly shop owner (Considine) and a sleazy internet pornographer (Honey). But can Tanya ever trust a man again?

Director-cowriter Pawlikowski obviously knows what he's talking about: Everything here has the ring of authenticity, from the way the film looks to the actions and reactions of the various characters. Korzun and Strelnikov are so bracingly natural that it's disarming--we instantly take an interest in them, feeling both their frustration and desperate hope. Considine (A Room for Romeo Brass) delivers another fascinating performance that wins us over completely, even though we don't quite trust him either. And the film looks fantastic ... in a very unusual way. Pawlikowski has a gifted eye for capturing a sense of place; the film's setting is relentlessly drab and grim--sprawling yet claustrophobic, modern yet falling down. What should be a quaint, lively English seaside is far more desolate than anything Tanya and her son might have left behind in Russia.

[15--adult themes and situations, language] 12.Dec.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall