Feb 6, 2023
Dina Farag, Ella Coy, Shenay Arscott, Nathan Mills
The final year of anything is often both the best and worst of times. They are some of the highest of highs we ever experience, and some of the lowest lows, as we face up to the impending changes in our lives. They are both exhilarating and daunting, the end of an era, and the start of something new. ‘Last Year’ capture some of those indescribable feelings of ‘happy-sad’, yet never truly feels representative of such an era.
Focusing on the collective paths of a number of college students in Bristol nearing the end of their final year, ‘Last Year’ centres around party, as students converge on a house to get drunk and have a good time. They encounter some, largely trivial conflicts between them, and none of the characters ever truly feel fleshed out, or at all real, with only one or two characters engaging with any real conviction.
There’s Ellie (Dina Farag), who pressures the nervous Ritu (Ella Coy) into attending the party and drinking, which at first appears slightly control, but becomes sweet as a romantic spark begins between them, and Ritu has a good time. Their arc is fulfilling, feels largely real, and fairly wholesome. Ellie’s interaction with sister Megan (Shenay Arscott) are far more forced, with an unexplained conflict drawn between them, and a resolution which feels too sudden. The dynamic between these characters and Dennis (Nathan Mills), a shy boy who nobody expects to have turned up, similarly lack conviction, with Dennis teetering on being a developed character, but eventually just fading into the background of events.
The handling of one character’s attempts to take advantage of a drunken girl are relatively well handled, but that’s the darkest the film delves, never truly exploring the despairing struggles of the final year of college. The issue is ‘Last Year’ never truly feels as though it is the last year, there’s no suggestion that these characters are going through the end of an era - you get the sense that they could have these parties for years to come. There’s no sense of finality to any of it, no sense of impending goodbyes, and significantly no sense of heightening pressures of burgeoning adulthood.
Writer-Director Jack Twell lets himself down with a script which never quite goes that extra step to real profundity, preferring to focus on half-baked relationships than deeper themes or ideas. This would be fine should the film capture the highs of the final year of college, yet these are similarly limited, leaving a party which just feels like another night out rather than anything truly special.
The script is similarly lacking in terms of dialogue, which often feels forced, not helping a lack of chemistry between actors, which often leaves scenes feeling awkwardly off kilter. Twell’s direction is more convincing, at times capturing vibes akin to Steve McQueen’s glorious ‘Lover’s Rock’, though the cuts between characters in one intense argument feels more like a Youtube sketch than a short film.
However, other than Twell’s competent direction, there’s not much going in the way for ‘Last Year’, a short which promises to explore an interesting, and pivotal time of life, yet scarcely resembles that experiences. Another thing also happens in the final year of things, you never achieve everything you want to before time runs out; the same could be said of ‘Last Year’.