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'Last Resort'

Saturday, February 24, 2001

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Maybe it's just me. There are just certain kinds of highly acclaimed movies that leave me wishing I had seen the same film everyone else is praising to the skies.

Take WASPy suburban-angst dramas -- please. I found "The Ice Storm" and even the Oscar-winning "American Beauty" to be overwrought indictments of the crumbling family and the myth of success, including a few characters bordering on the cartoonish.

"Last Resort"

Rating: Unrated; contains vulgar language, sexual situations and brief violence.

Starring: Dina Korzun, Paddy Considine.

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski.

Critic's call:


Then there's the new breed of European cinema verite working-class slice-of-life drama. Many critics gave huzzahs to such movies as "The Dreamlife of Angels" and "La Promesse." I tend to think of them as movies featuring characters in search of a story. "The Bicycle Thief" they ain't.

"Last Resort," now at the Loews Waterfront as the initial offering in the Shooting Gallery spring film series, falls into the latter category for me despite strong reviews from other critics.

Dina Korzun, a Russian actress with a fascinating face, plays the central character, Tanya, who has come to England with her young son, Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov), to hook up with her fiance. But he has not come to the airport to hook up with her. He's left her in the lurch -- or, more precisely, in the clutches of immigration authorities, which turns out to be worse.

Confused and afraid, she declares herself as a refugee in order to stay in England long enough to sort out her options. She is sent off to Stonehaven, a dismal seaside enclave used as a holding compound for those seeking asylum while their cases are processed.

Bureaucratic indifference being what it is, she finds herself with more time than anyone could stand in a place like this, although, coming from Russia, she might have been used to it. She is given a fistful of food coupons and a dingy, virtually empty apartment in a high-rise building overlooking a decrepit amusement park.

The place is a polyglot of languages and nationalities -- and not a few opportunists, like the kids selling black-market goods and the pornographer (Lindsey Honey) who wants Tanya to pose for racy live feeds on the Internet.

Meanwhile, Artiom befriends Artie (Paddy Considine), who runs the game arcade in town and seems to be the local Mr. Fixit. He's got some unfortunate history of his own that has caused him to move voluntarily to this depressing locale.

The movie ends up being about the relationship between Tanya and Artie, two sweet-natured failures who have bungled their lives and begin to see a chance for redemption in each other.

I grew to like the characters and the performers, but the film's documentary-style minimalism left me feeling like one of the people living in Stonehaven, wondering when something was going to happen and (although the movie is barely 75 minutes long) if I'd be leaving anytime soon.

OK, maybe now I'm being a little overwrought. Let's just say the simple charms of "Last Resort" escape me. Must be my suburban angst.

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