The Last Photograph is a unique, gently experimental film which offers two distinct yet equally well considered and touching portraits of grief. Though the climactic turn of events will be logical and maybe even predictable for those who remember the disaster that Danny Huston’s film is loosely based on, screenwriter Simon Astaire creates suspense by interleaving multiple timeframes. This device makes way for apt yet unobtrusive period set dressing, just one of the ways The Last Photograph is eloquently expressive rather than clumsily heavy-handed in revealing information.
This subtlety extends to the dialogue too. Huston and Jonah Hauer-King have a very natural conversational dynamic, particularly in a key flashback scene, yet Astaire never wastes his words. There isn’t a scrap of expositional dialogue, and when The Last Photograph uses verbal language at length it really makes it count, to great emotional effect. Huston, too, really knows to show not tell; for instance, he clearly differentiates the several timeframes with visual grammar rather than the age-old lazy option of intertitles.
Luke’s retellings of his budding relationship with Bird – which could have been mere hollow echoes of nostalgic, rose-tinted flashbacks in relationship dramas like Blue Valentine or The Notebook – feel fresh, sweet and authentic, and offer a calm refuge from the more fraught present day portions of the film.
For most of The Last Photograph protagonist Tom is a closed book, yet Huston takes him from gruff and standoffish to confessional and vulnerable without the stark transformation feeling abrupt or unbelievable.
The Last Photograph is many things: thriller, character study, and, to a lesser extent, coming of age romance. Yet it seamlessly balances all these elements to craft a story that grips as powerfully with its visuals as it does emotionally. A rare treat worth hunting down if the chance arises.
CAST: Danny Huston, Sarita Choudhury, Stacy Martin, Jonah Hauer-King
DIRECTOR: Danny Huston
WRITER: Simon Astaire
SYNOPSIS: When Tom’s most treasured possession, a photograph of him with his son Luke, is stolen, his life goes into a tailspin.[TRAILER FORTHCOMING]