Directed and Written by: John Wheeler
Review by Hannah Sayer
“How does it feel to be a shadow- to see but not be seen?” What happens once our time is up and we face the inevitability of our fate? This puzzling vision of the afterlife and what it means to have your fate decided by your past actions is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
The Last Road follows Toby, played with a fierce but vulnerable performance by Aaron Long, a fighter who one day loses his life during a gruelling battle in the ring. Toby is transported into the afterlife, a gloomy and bleaker version of the town he lived in when he was alive. This acts as his purgatory for the remainder of the film, as he must find his own way to either heaven or hell. Along this journey, he meets with other deceased members of the town’s community, some helping him and others influencing his movements along the way. The dreamlike flashbacks to his childhood embedded within the narrative suggest that our past memories can stay with us forever and limit our ability to move on, even in death.
The film opens with the same intensity that is carried throughout its entirety, aided by Mark Standing’s music. The combination of this powerful score with the brutality of the fighting and night shots of Toby walking the streets of Wiltshire enables the viewer to be plunged straight into the deep end. There is a sense that the tension is going to reach a climax, which is where this film breaks away from typical conventions and allows this to happen within the first half an hour of the running time.
The main fight where Toby is killed is graphic in its treatment of violence and creates an uncomfortable viewing. In this scene, Wheeler is effective in questioning the moral righteousness of the audience at the fight, who are essentially voyeurs of the violence; receiving pleasure from watching this fight to the death. The over the top and melodramatic cheering for the fighting to continue allows Wheeler to comment on wider society and the fact that no one stepped in to prevent this violence from going too far, as in their eyes, it was all for entertainment.
The visuals of the film are stunningly photographic, with the colour contrast between the world of the living and the dead fully emasculating just how harsh this unforgiving landscape of the afterlife is.
The final product is slightly too long and drawn out, but The Last Road is a thought-provoking and experimental depiction of what happens after death. This is not a drama that would appeal to everybody, yet its moral message of actions having consequences in this life, or the next, certainly resonates.