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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 


Long time friends Ray (Bob Hoskins), Lenny (David Hemmings) and Vic (Tom Courtenay) meet at the pub to celebrate the life of Jack (Michael Caine), who has recently died. They drive down to Margate with Jack's car salesman son Vince (Ray Winstone) to disperse the ashes, while his widow Amy (Helen Mirren) visits her retarded daughter, who she has seen once a week for the past 50 years. As they drive to Margate, the friends remember pivotal and wonderful moments that have affected each of their lives.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Schepisi has reaffirmed that it is indeed possible to make a film as deeply soaked up as a novel and that Rebecca is not the only screen adaptation that echoes the atmosphere of its source with all the juices intact. In tackling such inherently English material – from the settings to the characters – Schepisi also proves that an outsider can get inside a nation’s skin. Englishman Alan Parker did it to America, now an Australian is doing it for England. Last Orders is most enjoyable if you have at least a glimmer of knowledge about the Englishness it portrays so accurately. Not because that’s the subject, but because that’s the context. The relationships are all Made in England, with their criss cross wires of arms length intimacy, sudden rush of frankness and brutally cold exteriors. 

Schepisi and his formidable cast (they queued up for roles, as his commentary on the DVD makes clear) tease out each of the characters within their personal settings so effectively that we slip easily into the film’s varying moods, alternating between jolly friendship and heart breaking betrayal. As they get closer to Margate and the scattering of the ashes, so we get closer to the truth about them all and their relationship to Jack – and to each other. But it’s the subtlety of the editing that makes the film feel so well crafted, as Schepisi moves us back and forth in time to dramatically recreate snapshots from the past that haunt the close knit group. A thoughtful and gently gritty road movie of friendship, love and other life-affirming emotions, Last Orders deserves a toast with a hearty ale.

In his commentary, Schepisi talks about that moving back and forth in time, explaining why he believes it mustn’t be fussy and over concerned with images of period items. Concentrate on story and character, he says. Schepisi’s tone may be a little flat, but the content of what he says is fascinating. He avoids the dreary descriptive approach of “…and this is so and so doing such and such…” which of course is evident, and the last resort of the director with nothing to articulate. 

We get to know quite a bit of Schepisi’s filmmaking language, and the reasons for his choices: why wide lenses here, long lenses there, where blue screen is used and why, and so on. He talks most warmly about his cast, of course, and how they all felt so familiar with the setting they wanted to work on it -–for love of the craft.

Transferred beautifully, the rich tones intact, it’s a great DVD resource for fans, movie lovers and film students alike.

Published May 15, 2003

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CAST: Michael Caine, Tom Courtenay, David Hemmings, Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren, Ray Winston

DIRECTOR: Fred Schepisi

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

PRESENTATION: Widescreen (2.35:1/16:9 Enhanced)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary by director Fred Schepisi, original movie trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: May 14, 2003

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