Screened as part of NZIFF 2001
Pawel Pawlikowski brings a documentarist’s rigour and clarity, as well as blazing compassion, to this story of an east European woman and her young son, washed up in an unbelievably grim seaside ‘holding area’ for asylum seekers. They are repeatedly told how lucky they are not to be in prison or detention camp, and yet are under continuous surveillance to make sure they do not try to ‘escape’ to London.
This is a beautifully acted, beautifully photographed piece with not a wasted word or shot or scene, and Pawlikowski’s compositions augment the elegiac sadness of the deserted seaside resort with squalor and anger. Dina Korzun is superb as Tanya, the vulnerable, emotionally generous woman who arrives at Heathrow with a plan to meet up with her British ‘fiancé’. And Paddy Considine gives an outstanding screen performance as Alfie, the bingo caller who befriends Tanya and her son Artiom (Artiom Strelnikov) and falls in love with her. Their tender love affair is deeply touching, and attains a nobility for having transcended the official meanness that surrounds them. — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian, 16/3/01
Mr Considine’s performance gives the film a comic spark and a glow of warmth. Alfie’s casual cynicism and underlying decency slowly break down Tanya’s defenses, and the audience’s, too. Alfie’s taciturn charm carries a sharp edge of anger and disappointment, and by the end of the movie you feel that he and Tanya, without many words in common, have understood each other.
Like Alfie, Last Resort has a soft core of sentimentality, a fantasy of rescue and self-sacrifice tucked within its enveloping bleakness. It insists, with a touchingly old-fashioned good faith, that people in dire circumstances retain their capacity for intimacy, nobility and courage.
Only 76 minutes long, the film has the compression and clarity of a good short story. And like the best fiction it’s alive with implications that reach beyond the immediate story. It would be the height of banality to say that Tanya and Alfie’s story is universal, but the film leaves you with a feeling of having glimpsed something essential about the way the world is now: a close, particular image of the anomie and dislocation that exist around the globe. — A.O. Scott, NY Times, 23/2/01