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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 


Long time friends Ray (Bob Hoskins), Lenny (David Hemmings) and Vic (Tom Courtenay) meet at the pub to celebrate the life of Jack (Michael Caine), who has recently died. They drive down to Margate with Jack's car salesman son Vince (Ray Winstone) to disperse the ashes, while his widow Amy (Helen Mirren) visits her retarded daughter, who she has seen once a week for the past 50 years. As they drive to Margate, the friends remember pivotal and wonderful moments that have affected each of their lives.

Review by Louise Keller:
Fred Schepisi's screen adaptation of Graham Swift's Booker prize-winning novel, Last Orders, is a poignant and gentle film exploring the lives of four friends thrown together for one last journey. We first meet Ray, Lenny and Vic at the pub, their old stomping ground, where they used to meet regularly with Jack over a few pints and discuss the world at large. There's something very familiar and comfortable about their relationship - this is where they work out their lives. We can all relate to these close friendships; besides we have journeyed with these stalwart actors for much of their glorious careers. And what a cast it is. Michael Caine's Jack - a bit of a lad with charm and brashness; Bob Hoskins' Ray - Amy's 'ray of sunshine and hope' with a nose for the nags; David Hemmings' Lenny - a tactless stirrer (Hemmings' eyebrows are a cross between a jungle and spiky devil's horns); Tom Courtenay's Vic - calm, peace-loving funeral director; Helen Mirren's Amy - longing for emotional warmth and stability; Ray Winston's Vince - a confused son, who knows he has disappointed his father. Everyone is superb - I especially enjoyed Hoskins' nuance and subtly and Caine's charisma; there's a memorable horserace scene involving 33 to 1 odds that offers enough emotional rush to put a mist in anyone's eye. This character driven film allows us to learn about the relationships they share with each other by dipping in and out of the past with flash back from various crucial times. Although the jumps in time flit backwards and forwards constantly, it's a wonderfully smooth transition with great editing, and the film plays out like a conversation in which memories are recollected and relived. (The actors who play the younger characters are well cast and beautifully integrated.) Paul Grabowski's marvellous jazz score seems to keep the emotional journey alive with his beautiful piano solos, as well as resonant cello and string passages. It's affecting, amusing, sad and reflective as we find ourselves in the hop-fields where Jack and Amy meet, the battlefront with Jack and Ray, the races, the pubs, the hanky panky in the campervan, the butcher shop, and journey's end at Margate. Schepisi has avoided all overt sentimentality, allowing our emotions to crescendo naturally through the events relived by the trigger points. Last Orders nurtures the multi-layers of its characters, allowing us to remember that life's ultimately a gamble and last orders are to be embraced.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Schepisi has reaffirmed that it is indeed possible to make a film as deeply soaked up as a novel and that Rebecca is not the only screen adaptation that echoes the atmosphere of its source with all the juices intact. In tackling such inherently English material - from the settings to the characters - Schepisi also proves that an outsider can get inside a nation's skin. Englishman Alan Parker did it to America, now the Australian is doing it for England. Last Orders is most enjoyable if you have at least a glimmer of knowledge about the Englishness it portrays so accurately. Not because that's the subject, but because that's the context. The relationships are all Made in England, with their criss cross wires of arms length intimacy, sudden rush of frankness and brutally cold exteriors. Schepisi and his formideable cast tease out each of the characters within their personal settings so effectively that we slip easily into the film's varying moods, alternating between jolly friendship and heart breaking betrayal. As they get closer to Margate and the scatterimng of the ashes, so we get closer to the truth about them all and their relationship to Jack - and to each other. But it's the subtlety of the editing that makes the film feel so well crafted, as Schepisi moves us back and forth in time to dramatically recreate snapshots from the past that haunt the close knit group. A thoughtful and gently gritty road movie of friendship, love and other life-affirming emotions, Last Orders deserves a toast with a hearty ale.

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CAST: Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings, Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Ray Winstone

PRODUCER: Nik Powell, Elisabeth Robinson, Fred Schepisi, Gary Smith

DIRECTOR: Fred Schepisi

SCRIPT: Fred Schepisi (novel by Graham Swift)


EDITOR: Kate Williams

MUSIC: Paul Grabowsky


RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes



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