What we remember as we age, we remember well.
An Illusion review by Joan Ellis
“Last Orders” is a gentle reminiscence by three working class Englishmen of their fourth buddy, Jack (Michael Caine). As each of them looks back, a change of expression triggers a short flashback that stays just long enough on screen to make its point about one of them. As the memories accumulate, they give us a ready acquaintance with each of these men along with the tenor of their lives. It is effective and touching and wonderfully acted.
Lenny (David Hemmings), Vic (Tom Courtenay), and Ray (Bob Hoskins), have gathered in their habitual haunt, the local pub, to raise a last glass to Jack and to await the arrival of Jack’s son Vince (Ray Winstone), a car salesman who has brought the best car on the showroom floor for the journey to scatter Jack’s ashes. In his hastily scribbled last orders, Jack asked to be scattered at Margate, the seaside town where he and his wife Amy (Helen Mirren) spent their honeymoon.
By now you can see that you will be watching six marvelous British actors capture the enormously strong selectivity of age. What we remember as we age, we remember well. The memories of these friends have gained power over the years not because they were necessarily important, but because they were telling. These men have been comfortable with each other, and each has given to the others a lifetime of friendship. They have been reliable and loyal; they live with acceptance.
The pace of the movie is slow, full of pauses while the men reminisce as they stroll and drive toward the dock at Margate. It is the pace that allows us to sink slowly into their friendship. While all the performances are fine, Michael Caine, Helen Mirren, and Bob Hoskins carry the movie unquestionably.
With a few fine strokes, Mr. Caine manages to show us he was the light-hearted wit of the group, the appreciator of women, especially his wife; he’s the guy who brings forth laughter in others, and his humor hides a tender heart. As Ray, Bob Hoskins uses a subtle array of expressions to make us understand quickly that he is a listener and a true friend. We need no words to know what he is thinking. His is a lovely performance.
Apparently Helen Mirren can play any role with perfect mood and timing. Here, as Jack’s widow Amy, she is deeply saddened by the loss of the man she has lived with for fifty years, but she is also worn by the job. The role of Amy is light years away from the sharp, often glamorous roles Mirren has played in other films, and it gives a new dimension to her acting.
What is so affecting about this group is that their short exchanges catch bits of character that are never dulled by too much talk. They are looking both backward and forward with a certain sadness. They don’t argue. They are friends beyond disagreement.
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