Last Resort (2000)

Last Resort (2000)

An expectation-subverting, understated asylum-seeker drama featuring two stellar performances

The Very Best

8.0

Movie

United Kingdom
English, Russian
Drama, Romance
2000
PAWEŁ PAWLIKOWSKI
Adrian Scarborough, Bruce Byron, David Auker
73 min

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TLDR

Not a great advertisement for British seaside towns, but a great film nonetheless.

What it's about

When her English fiancé abandons her at a UK airport, a young Russian woman and her teenage son desperately claim political asylum and are sent to wait out an eternity at a holding center.

The take

The title of Paweł Pawlikowski’s sophomore feature has a double meaning: it’s not only about the extraordinary lengths a Russian mother goes to remain in the UK, but it’s also set in the last seaside resort anyone would ever want to visit. While travelling to meet her English fiancé, Tanya (Dina Korzun) and son Artyom (Artyom Strelnikov) are detained at customs after failing to satisfy the immigration officer’s queries. With her fiancé refusing to answer her calls, Tanya panics and claims political asylum, not knowing that doing so means she’ll have to wait for over a year in a grim coastal town requisitioned as an asylum-seeker “holding area.”

Pawlikowski uses realism to highlight the crushing bureaucracy, dehumanizing conditions, and threats of exploitation that come with being an asylum seeker, but remarkably, bleakness isn’t the overriding tone. Local arcade worker Alfie (Paddy Considine) takes a shine to the duo and does what he can to brighten their gloomy situation — and, in the cruel limbo they find themselves in, his warm generosity and fondness for them imbues the film with an undeniable sense of hopefulness. It never detracts from the film’s realism (see: its bittersweet ending) but neither does Pawlikowski allow the precious gift of someone who genuinely cares to go ignored.

What stands out

Korzun and Considine’s roles are at the heart of why Last Resort feels so believable — and therefore why it’s so affecting. Tanya is never reduced to the kind of generic stand-in that would make this an awkwardly broad political commentary: she’s a fully realized person in her own right, an admittedly naive romantic who “always needs to be in love” to the detriment of herself and her son. Considine is something like her opposite: not a dreamer like Tanya, but equally, not a tough-shelled cynic, either. With their brilliantly complex, vulnerable performances, Korzun and Considine match both the realism and the optimism of Pawlikowski’s direction.

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