Written and Directed by Dan Tonkin
Starring Olivia Stelling, Mark Christopher Collins, Adrian Osman, Rebecca Hyland, Antony Arundell, Olivia Jane Russell
Short Film Review by George Nash
As a large meteor crashes towards earth, short film Last Light follows the movements and final interactions of five people on the last day on earth.
Nothing brings people together quite like an approaching meteor the size of a small planet, right? But, as Hollywood knows all too well, very often the only thing astronomical about such an event is the budget; and the only thing destroyed as a result is any sense of narrative. Save for an opening news bulletin warning of the imminent disaster, with Last Light, writer/director Dan Tonkin – whose body of work includes corporate advertising and event filming as well as fiction – sensibly shifts focus from what blazes above to what rages inside, as character emotions and tensions spill out on judgement day. The result: Tonkin has created a sub-ten-minute excerpt of what we expect the final ever episode of Eastenders to look like.
Last Light follows a seemingly unconnected three-pronged narrative, in which a middle-aged couple argue about trivial matters, a young woman tries to reconnect with the world, and an estranged father tries to make peace with his adult son. Narratively, it’s certainly not going to shatter any new ground, and you’ve most definitely seen most of the melodrama before. And yet there remains an intelligence in the way Tonkin approaches his subjects. Unnamed until the credits, his characterisation raises many a question, but rarely gives an answer; and amid the end of the world paranoia, there’s an irony in the fact that, for the majority of Tonkin’s players, their world has ended long before any talk of asteroids. Close-up is the name of the game here, as Tonkin’s attentive camera work fixates upon facial expression; often saying much more than any final-moment spiel ever could.
The script occasionally clings too tightly to convention, and the performances, with perhaps the exception of Christopher Collins and Olivia Stelling, feel a tad over-egged. And while Last Light might effectively veil its characters in enigma, there is the feeling throughout that what is not shown threatens to be far more interesting than what is. Take away the giant fiery rock that burns at the narrative’s core, and you have unexplored tales of shattered paternal bonds; meaningful relationships lost; and a snoring mother-in-law.
Original this most certainly isn’t, but patience and careful characterisation there most certainly is. While it might not always reach its intended heights, Last Light’s emotional comet is always moving in the right direction.