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138: Last Day

average rating is 5 out of 5


James Learoyd


Posted on:

Feb 29, 2024

Film Reviews
138: Last Day
Directed by:
Gareth Brierley
Written by:
Gareth Brierley, Fiona Creese
Tyrone Huggins, George Khan

138: Last Day may very well be one of the best short films I have seen in a long time. Some movies just jump out at you... countless critics say that you can tell a good movie from the first few shots; it immediately hooks you and from that moment on, you are completely and utterly enraptured by what’s on screen. This is wholly one such example. It presents a subjective, arguably abstract, tale of a manager’s psychological journey -- fears, memories, a guilt trip -- climaxing with the protagonist having to face a moral conundrum that’s been cleverly, patiently, revealing itself throughout the piece.


Within seconds, the audience knows they’re in secure hands. It’s carefully constructed by a group of creatives who understand pacing, staging, and directorial perspective at an exceptional level. Thoughtfully executed to its very last detail, there’s a flow and vibrancy to each setup and payoff (of which there are many). This can also be attributed to the music, sound, and especially editing, the cutting maintains the exact pace required for every scene and virtuosically navigates our protagonist’s fluctuating emotional state.


In 15 minutes, the picture contains sequences that you could describe as genuine set-pieces (an unusual phenomenon in a short film). From the hypnotic blocking to the authentic location, costume and set design, it’s hugely ambitious from beginning to end – and yet, satisfyingly self-contained; elegant. Each one often presents a different tone, from funny to heart-wrenching, and the viewer is always along for the ride. There’s a Brechtian use of props and setting (this being representative of that without needing to feel natural etc.), precise choreography and surreal puppetry!


It’s not just great on a level of craft: its sentiment / message is genuinely moving. I found myself touched wholeheartedly by the ending - for without any sense of pretension or heavy-handedness, the film naturally provides the meaning; baked into the very nature of the piece... it’s all just very special work. With such a degree of fun, we’re being told a rather important story, but having it be emotionally driven means it never feels like it’s being shoved down our throats.


In watching, one can identify many influences on screen, yet it never feels tiresome or derivative. The way in which the character’s journey is represented feels as if it falls somewhere between Fellini and Charlie Kaufman -- but with the political sincerity of a Ken Loach drama! And then the musicality of every performer mixed with that form of theatrical subjectivity hearkens back to the cinema of Bob Fosse in a big way. One thing that a lot of these have in common is energy: this is a hugely energetic movie.


There’s really not much to criticise. To those reading this, I urge you to watch this short. One hopes that smaller projects such as this, that display such attention to detail and love for the medium, get discovered and rediscovered. 138: Last Day is a rare kind of film, and not one to miss.

About the Film Critic
James Learoyd
James Learoyd
Short Film
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